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Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of Medical Sciences, Palermo, s 
Author of " The Recrudescence of Leprosy and its Causation 



Late Medical Inspector, U.S. Army; 
Corresponding Member of the Neiv York Academy of Sciences 




Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, London; 

Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, England; 

Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries, London 





" Such is the condition of humanity, and so uncertain is men's judgment, that 
they cannot determine even death itself." PLINY. 

"The indisputable signs of death, an extraordinarily difficult question." PROF. 

" It should never be forgotten that there is but one really trustworthy proof that 
death has occurred in any given instance, viz., the presence of a manifest sign of 
commencing decomposition." SIR HENRY THOMPSON, F.R.C.S. 

" We are obliged to acknowledge that we have no sign or group of signs sufficient 
to determine the moment of death with scientific certainty in all cases." PROF. P. 

" It is true that hardly any one sign of death, short of putrefaction, can be relied 
upon as infallible." British Medical Journal, October 31, 1885. p. 841. 

" The thought of suffocation in a coffin is more terrible than that of torture on 
the rack, or burning at the stake. Carelessness in this matter cannot be innocent ; 
and ignorance in such a case is akin to crime. When we neglect precautions against 
a fate so terrible, to which every one is thus liable, our tears are little less than hypo- 
crisy and our mourning is a mockery." PROF ALEXANDER WILDER, M.D. 


A DISTRESSING experience in the writer's family many years ago 
brought home to his mind the danger of premature burial, and 
led ultimately to the careful study of a gruesome subject to which 
he has a strong natural repugnance. His collaborator in the 
volume has himselt passed through a state of profound suspended 
animation from drowning, having been laid out for dead an 
experience which has induced him in like manner to investigate 
the various death-counterfeits. The results of the independent 
inquiries carried on by both of us in various parts of Europe 
and America, and by one of us during a sojourn in India in the 
early part of this year, are now laid before the reader, with such 
practical suggestions as it is hoped may prepare the way for 
bringing about certain needed reforms in our burial customs. 

The danger, as I have attempted to show, is very real to 
ourselves, to those most dear to us, and to the community in 
general ; and it should be a subject of very anxious concern 
how this danger may be minimised or altogether prevented. 
The duty of taking the most effective precautions to this end is 
one that naturally falls to the Legislature, especially under a 
Government professing to regard social questions as of paramount 
importance. Fortunately, this is a non-party and a non-contentious 
question, it imperils no interest, so that no formal obstruction 
or unnecessary delay need be apprehended ; and it should be 
urged upon the Government to introduce and carry an effective 
measure at the earliest opportunity, not only as a security 
against the possibility of so terrible an evil, but to quiet the 
widespread and not altogether unreasonable apprehension on 
this subject which is now so prevalent. 

It has been found convenient to retain throughout the body 
of the work the use of the singular pronoun, but every part of 
the book receives the cordial approval of both authors, and with 
this explanation we accept its responsibility jointly. 

We have to acknowledge our great indebtedness in preparing 
this volume to many previous writers, including such as have 
investigated the phenomena of suspended animation and the 


signs of death, and such as, with a more practical intention 
have dwelt upon the danger of death-counterfeits being mistaken 
for the absolute extinction of life, illustrating their counsels or 
warnings by numerous instances. Grouping both classes of 
writers together, we may mention specially the names of 
Winslow and Bruhier, Hufeland, Struve, Marcus Herz and 
Koppen, Kite, Curry, and Anthony Fothergill ; and, of more 
recent date, the names of Bouchut, Londe, Lenormand, and 
Gaubert (on mortuaries), Russell, Fletcher, Franz Hartmann, 
and Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson. 

A work to which we are particularly indebted for the literature 
of the subject is that of the late Dr. Felix Gannal, " Mort 
Apparente et Mort Reelle : moyens de les distinguer." Paris, 
1890. Dr. Gannal, having qualified in medicine and pharmacy, 
occupied himself with the business of embalming, which he 
inherited from his father. He employed the considerable 
leisure which the practice of that art left to him in compiling 
the above laborious work. He examined many books, pamphlets, 
theses, and articles, from which he cited expressions of opinion 
on the several points in a lengthy form in his original edition 
(1868), in a condensed form in the second edition. His 
Bibliography is by far the most comprehensive that has been 
hitherto compiled. Our own Bibliography had been put together 
from various sources before we made use of Dr. Gannal's. It 
includes several titles which he does not give ; while, on the 
other hand, it has been considerably extended beyond its 
original limits by transcribing titles which we have found 
nowhere but in his list. The Bibliography, it need hardly be 
said, is much more extensive than our own reading ; but it 
seemed useful to make it as complete as possible, whether the 
books had been seen by us or not, so as to show in chrono- 
logical order how much interest had been aroused in the 
subject from time to time in one country more than another, 
or in various countries together. The titles of articles in 
journals, which belong for the most part to the more recent 
period, have been taken from the Index Catalogue of the 
Surgeon-General's Library, Washington, a few references being 
added to articles which have otherwise come under our notice. 

W. T. 


A CONCURRENCE of peculiar circumstances, beginning in May 
1895, has directed public attention in England to the subject of 
premature burial, probably to a greater degree, so far as the 
author's recollection serves, than at any time during the past 
half-century. Amongst these may be mentioned the publication 
of several recent cases of premature burial in the English and 
American papers; the narrow escape of a child found in Regent's 
Park, London, laid out for dead at the Marylebone Mortuary, 
and afterwards restored to life; the issue in Boston, U.S., of Dr. 
Franz Hartmann's instructive essay, entitled, " Buried Alive : an 
Examination into the Occult Causes of Apparent Death, Trance, 
and Catalepsy " (a considerable number of copies having been 
sold in England), and the able leading articles and correspon- 
dence on the subject in the Spectator, Daily Chronicle, Morning 
Post, Leeds Mercury, The Jewish World, Plymouth Mercury, 
Manchester Courier, To-Day, and many other daily and weekly 

It is curious that, while many books and pamphlets relating 
to this important subject have been issued in France and Ger- 
many, no adequate and comprehensive treatise has appeared 
from the English press for more than sixty years past, nor 
writings in any form, with the exception of a paper by Sir 
Benjamin Ward Richardson in No. 21 of the Asclepiad, pub- 
lished in 1889, on the "Absolute Signs of Death," sundry articles 
in the medical journals from time to time, and a London edition 
of Dr. Hartmann's volume in January, 1896. The section upon 
"Real and Apparent Death" in the 1868 edition of the late Pro- 
fessor Guy's " Forensic Medicine " begins with the words, " This 
subject has never attracted much attention in England, and no 
medical author of repute has treated it at any length " a remark 
not less true after the lapse of a generation. The following 
chapters have been prepared with the view, not so much of 
supplying this omission, as of guiding the public to the dangers 


of our present mode of treating the apparent dead, in the hope 
that reforms and preventive measures may be instituted without 
delay in order to put an end to such unnecessary domestic 

In introducing the subject the author is aware that the great 
majority of the medical profession in this country are either 
sceptical or apathetic as to the alleged danger of living burial. 
Many do not believe in the existence of death-trance or death- 
counterfeits, and the majority of those who do believe in them 
declare that cases are very rare, and that if consciousness is 
ever restored in the grave it can only last a second or two, and 
that those who live in fear of such an occurrence should provide 
for a. post-mortem or for the severance of the jugular vein. Many 
persons, on the other hand, after much careful inquiry, are of 
opinion that cases of premature burial are of frequent occurrence; 
and that the great majority of the human race (outside of a few 
places in Germany, where waiting mortuaries are established, or 
where the police regulations, such as those described in this 
volume as existing in Wiirtemburg, are efficiently and systema- 
tically carried out) are liable to this catastrophe. Important as 
the subject is allowed to be, and numerous as are the reported 
cases, no effective steps, either public or private, appear to have 
been taken, outside of Germany and Austria, to remedy the evil. 
At present a majority of the people appear content to trust to 
the judgment of their relations and to the ordinary certificates 
of death to safeguard them from so terrible a disaster. That 
death-certificates and death-verifications are often of a most 
perfunctory description, both as to the fact of death and the 
cause of death, has been proved by overwhelming evidence 
before the recent House of Commons Committee on Death- 
Certification. Such certificates, when obtained, may be mis- 
leading and untrustworthy; while in many cases burials take 
place without the doctor having either attended the patient or 
examined the body. Nor, in spite of the appointment of death- 
verificators by our neighbours across the Channel, is this im- 
portant precaution effectively carried out by them. M. Devergie 
reports that in twenty-five thousand communes in France no 
verification of death takes place, although the law requires it; 


and he demands that no diploma shall be given without the 
candidate having proved himself conversant with the signs of 
death. (Medical Times, London, 1874, vol. i., p. 25.) On personal 
inquiry from medical authorities in France, during the present 
year (1896), we learn that this laxity still prevails. 

It appears strange that, except when a man dies, all his con- 
cerns are protected by custom and formalities, or guarded by laws, 
so as to insure his interests being fairly carried out to completion. 
Thus we see that heirship, marriage, business affairs of all kinds, 
whether of a public or private nature, are amply guarded by such 
precautionary and authoritative measures as will secure them. 
But one of the most important of all human interests that which 
relates to the termination of life is managed in such a careless 
and perfunctory way as to permit of irreparable mistakes. To 
be sure there are laws in most of the Continental States of Europe 
that are intended to regulate the care and burial of the dead, but 
few of them make it certain that the apparently dead shall not be 
mistaken for the really dead, and treated as such. None of them 
allow more than seventy-two hours before burial (some allow only 
thirty-six, others twenty-four, and others again much less, accord- 
ing to the nature of the disease), unless the attending physician 
petitions the authorities for reasonable delay a rare occurrence- 
And even if postponement is granted, it is doubtful if the inevitable 
administrative formalities would leave opportunities for dubious 
cases to receive timely and necessary attention, or for cases of 
trance, catalepsy, coma, or the like, to be rescued from a living 

In the introduction to a treatise entitled "The Uncertainty of 
the Signs of Death, and the Danger of Precipitate Interments/' 
published in 1746, the author, Mr. M. Cooper, surgeon, says: 
"Though death at some time or other is the necessary and un. 
avoidable portion of human nature, yet it is not always certain 
that persons taken for dead are really and irretrievably deprived 
of life, since it is evident from experience that many apparently 
dead have afterwards proved themselves alive by rising from 
their shrouds, their coffins, and even from their graves. It is 
equally certain that some persons, too soon interred after their 
supposed decease, have in their graves fallen victims to a death 


which might otherwise have been prevented, but which they then 
find more cruel than that procured by the rope or the rack." The 
author quotes Lancisi, first physician to Pope Clement XL, who, 
in his treatise " De Subitaneis Mortibus," observes : " Histories 
and relations are not the only proofs which convince me that 
many persons supposed to be dead have shown themselves alive, 
even when they were ready to be buried, since I am induced to 
such a belief from what I myself have seen ; for I saw a person 
of distinction, now alive, recover sensation and motion when the 
priest was performing the funeral service over him in church." 

After reporting and describing a large number of cases of pre- 
mature burial, or of narrow escapes from such terrible occur- 
rences, in which the victims of hasty diagnosis were prepared for 
burial, or revived during the progress of the burial service, Mr. 
Cooper continues : " Now, if a multiplicity of instances evince 
that many have the good fortune to escape being interred alive, 
it is justly to be suspected that a far greater number have fallen 
victims to a fatal confinement in their graves. But because 
human nature is such a slave to prejudice, and so tied down by 
the fetters of custom, it is highly difficult, if not absolutely impos- 
sible, to put people on their guard against such terrible accidents, 
or to persuade those vested with authority to take proper measures 
for preventing them." 

Nothing seems to have been done to remedy this serious evil ; 
and forty-two years later Mr. Chas. Kite, a well-known practi. 
tioner, called attention to the subject in a volume entitled " The 
Recovery of the Apparently Dead," London, 1788. This author 
on p. 92, says : " Many, various, and even opposite appearances 
have been supposed to indicate the total extinction of life. For- 
merly, a stoppage of the pulse and respiration were thought to be 
unequivocal signs of death; particular attention in examining the 
state of the heart and larger arteries, the flame of a taper, a lock 
of wool, or a mirror applied to the mouth or nostrils, were con- 
ceived sufficient to ascertain these points ; and great has been the 
number of those who have fallen untimely victims to this erroneous 
opinion. Some have formed their prognostic from the livid, black, 
and cadaverous countenance ; others from the heavy, dull, fixed, 
or flaccid state of the eyes ; from the dilated pupil ; the foaming at 


the mouth and nostrils, the rigid and inflexible state of the body, 
jaws, or extremities; the intense and universal cold, etc. Some, 
conceiving any one of these symptoms as incompetent and inade- 
quate to the purpose, have required the presence of such of them 
as were, in their opinion, the least liable to error; but whoever 
will take the trouble of reading the Reports of the (Humane) 
Society with attention, will meet with very many instances where 
all the appearances separately, and even where several associated 
in the same case, occurred, and yet the patient recovered ; and it 
is therefore evident that these signs will not afford certain and 
unexceptionable criteria, by which we may distinguish between 
life and death." 

Mr. Kite furnishes references to numerous cases of recovery 
where the apparently dead exhibited black, livid, or cadaverous 
countenances ; eyes fixed or obscure ; eyeballs diminished in 
size, immovable and fixed in their sockets, the cornea without 
lustre ; eyes shrivelled ; froth at the mouth ; rigidity of the 
body, jaws, and extremities ; partial or universal cold. 1 

The crux of the whole question is the uncertainty of the signs 
which announce the cessation of physical existence. Prizes have 
been offered, and prizes have been awarded, but further experi- 
ence has shown that the signs and tests, sometimes singly and 
sometimes in combination, have been untrustworthy, and that 
the only certain and unfailing sign of death is decomposition. 

Commenting upon actual cases of premature burial, the Lancet, 
March 17, 1866, p. 295, says: "Truly there is something about 
the very notion of such a fate calculated to make one shudder, 
and to send a cold stream down one's spine. By such a 
catastrophe is not meant the sudden avalanche of earth, bricks, 
or stones upon the luckless miner or excavator, or the crushing, 
suffocative death from tumbling ruins. No ; it is the cool, 
determined treatment of a living being as if he were dead 
the rolling him in his winding sheet, the screwing him down in 
his cofrin, the weeping at his funeral, and the final lowering of 

1 "The Recovery of the Apparently Dead," by Charles Kite, Member of the 
Corporation of Surgeons in London, and Surgeon at Gravesend in Kent. London, 



him into the narrow grave, and piling upon his dark and box-like 
dungeon loads of his mother earth. The last footfall departs 
from the solitary churchyard, leaving the entranced sleeper 
behind in his hideous shell, soon to awaken to a consciousness 
and to a benumbed half-suffocated existence for a few minutes ; 
or else, more horrible still, there he lies beneath the ground 
conscious of what has been and still is, until, by some fearful 
agonised struggle of the inner man at the weird phantasmagoria 
which has passed across his mental vision, he awakes to a bodily 
vivification as desperate in its torment for a brief period as has 
been that of his physical activity. But it is soon past. There 
is scarcely room to turn over in the wooden chamber ; and what 
can avail a few shrieks and struggles of a half-stifled, cramped-up 
man ! " 

To prevent such unspeakable horrors as are here pictured, 
the Egyptians kept the bodies of the dead under careful super- 
vision by the priests until satisfied that life was extinct, previous 
to embalming them by means of antiseptics, balsams, and odor- 
iferous gums. The Greeks were aware of the dangers of 
premature burial, and cut off fingers before cremation to see 
whether life was extinct. In ancient Rome the recurrence of 
cases of premature burial had impressed the nation with the 
necessity for exercising the greatest caution in the treatment of the 
supposed dead ; hasty conclusions were looked upon as criminal r 
the absence of breath or heat or a cadaverous appearance were 
regarded as uncertain tests, and the supposed dead were put 
into warm baths or washed with hot water, and other means 
of restoration adopted. Neither in the greater part of Europe 
nor in the United States are any such means resorted to now, 
except in the case of apparent death by drowning, by asphyxia, 
or by hanging. Premature burials and narrow escapes are of 
almost every-day occurrence, as the narratives in the newspapers 
testify ; and the complaint made by a surgeon, Mr. Cooper, a 
hundred and fifty years ago, that the evil is perpetuated because 
we are slaves to prejudice, and because those vested with 
authority refuse to take measures for prevention, remains a 
serious blot upon our advanced civilisation. The Spectator^ 
September 14, 1895. commenting upon this unsatisfactory state 


of affairs, observes :" Burning, drowning, even the most hideous 
mutilation under a railway train, is as nothing compared with 
burial alive. Strangely enough this universal horror seems to 
have produced no desire to guard against burial alive. We all 
fear it, and yet practically no one takes any trouble to avoid 
the risk of it happening in his own case, or in that of the rest 
of mankind. It would be the simplest thing in the world to 
take away all chance of burying alive ; and yet the world 
remains indifferent, and enjoys its horror undisturbed by the 
hope of remedy." 

The authors' own reasonings, opinions, and conclusions are 
here briefly presented ; but as the majority of the public are 
oiore or less influenced by authority, it has been thought 
advisable to furnish a series of authenticated facts under the 
several headings to which they belong, and to cite the judgments 
of eminent members of the medical profession who have given 
special attention to the subject. The source of difficulty has 
been an embarras de richesse, or how from a mass of material, 
the extent of which will be seen by reference to the Biblio- 
.graphy, to select typical cases without needless repetition. The 
premature burials and narrow escapes from such disasters, which 
are reported by distinguished physicans and reputable writers, 
may be numbered literally by hundreds, and for every one 
reported it is obvious from the nature of the case that many are 
never heard of. Amongst the names of notable persons, who 
have thought the subject sufficiently practical for their attention, 
may be mentioned those of Empedocles, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, 
Pliny, Celsus, Plutarch, and St. Augustine in antiquity ; of 
Fabricius, Lancisi, Winslow, Haller, Buffon, Lavater, Moses 
Mendelssohn, Hufeland, and Alexander von Humboldt in modern 

The subject has several times engaged the attention of the 
French Senate and Legislative Chamber, as well as the Legis- 
lative Assemblies in the various States of Germany. In 1871, 
Dr. Alex. Wilder, Prof, of Physiology and Physiological Science, 
read a paper before the members of both houses of the New 
York State Legislature at the Capitol, Albany ; but we are not 
aware that the subject has ever been introduced in any of the 


other State Legislatures, or in the British Parliament, or in any 
of the Colonial Assemblies. 

In an editorial note, as far back as November 27, 1858, the 
Lancet, referring to a case of death-trance, remarked that such 
"examples are sufficiently mysterious in their character to call 
for a more careful investigation than it has hitherto been possible 
to accord to them." The facts disclosed in this treatise, the 
authors hope, may encourage qualified scientific observers to 
study the subject of death-trance, which, it must be admitted, 
has been strangely overlooked in England, though it would not 
be easy to mention one which more deeply concerns every 
individual born into the world. 

In order to prevent unnecessary pain to the reader on a 
subject so distressing in its nature, the more sensational and 
horrifying cases of premature burial have been omitted. They 
can, however, be found in abundance in the writings of Bruhier, 
Koppen, Kempner, Lenormand, Bouchut, Russell Fletcher, and 
the Boston (U.S.) edition of Hartmann. In England and in 
America it is the fashion amongst medical men to maintain that 
the tests known to medical art are fully equal to the prevention 
of live burial, that the cases quoted by the newspapers are 
introduced for sensational purposes, and that most of them are 
apocryphal. The perusal of the cases recorded in this volume, 
and a careful consideration of the weight of cumulative evidence 
represented by the very full Bibliography, must satisfy the 
majority of reflective readers that the facts are both authentic 
and numerous. 


WHEN requested by Mr. William Tebb, the talented 
author of " Premature Burial, and How it may be 
Prevented," to undertake the editorship of a second 
edition of this important work, for which there was 
an increasing demand, I felt much reluctance in com- 
plying with his wish, partly by reason of the pressure 
of many public and professional duties, and partly 
because the subject was one which had not been 
studied by me with the exhaustiveness it demanded. 

The fact, however, that an increasing weight of years 
presses upon the venerable author, whom I hold in 
the profoundest esteem, and his anxiety to see " some- 
thing accomplished, something done," ere he ceased 
from his labours, coupled with my appreciation of the 
loss he had sustained in the death of his medical 
collaborator, Col. Edward Perry Vollum, M.D., induced 
me finally to accept the honour and responsibility. 

The careful study of the subject which the work 
has entailed, and the perusal of the evidence collected 
from various parts of the world, which has accumu- 
lated considerably since the first edition was published 
in 1896, have convinced me of the real need in this 
country of drastic and far-reaching reforms in connec- 
tion with our burial system. 


Cases occurring in the course of my own practice, 
and cases which had come to my notice in the practice 
of other medical men, have for years led me to realize 
the dangers to which persons are liable under our 
faulty method of certification. But until, by the help 
of Mr. Tebb's and Col. Vollum's investigations, I under- 
took a systematic study of the whole question, I was 
not aware that facts so numerous and well authenti- 
cated, and so widespread, connected with every branch 
of the subject, were in existence. 

The loss of Dr. Vollum to the cause of Burial 
Reform is a real one. He was no ordinary man. For 
a third of a century he held high positions of trust 
under the United States Government, and his indomi- 
table energy, good judgment, professional prominence, 
and spotless public services earned for him the respect, 
the confidence, and admiration of all who had the 
good fortune to become associated with him. His 
genius and energy during the great War of the 
Rebellion brought him into the front rank of the men 
of mark of his time: few of the many thousands of 
sufferers who profited by his remarkable system of 
medical organization knew at the time how much 
they owed to Dr. Vollum's never-tiring zeal and ex- 
traordinary skill. His fearlessness and integrity led 
him, as medical inspector, to make ruthless war upon 
soulless contractors, inefficient surgeons, neglectful 


nurses, upon fraud, drunkenness, and ignorance. Even 
the dumb animals experienced his fostering care, and 
a complete revolution in the veterinary service of the 
United States army was the outcome of his strenuous 
efforts. Nothing came amiss to him whether systema- 
tizing an ambulance service, or improving the army 
ration and regulating the cooking, or establishing 
industrial asylums for the healthful employment of 
army pensioners, or formulating sanitary schemes to 
improve the quarters and camps and health of the 
soldiers, or forming insurance societies for the pro- 
motion of thrift among the ranks. The name of Col. 
Vollum was always and everywhere synonymous with 
progress and reform. In addition to all the many 
movements he initiated and advanced, he filled, dur- 
ing the closing years of active service under Govern- 
ment, the position of Corresponding Member of the 
New York Academy of Sciences, as well as the 
highly responsible post of President of Army Medi- 
cal Examining Boards. 

He passed away at Munich on 3ist May, 1902, 
his death being due to congestion of the liver. His 
body was cremated at Jena, and the ashes were in- 
terred at Arlington, near Washington. A memorial 
service was held in the capital, in the presence of a 
distinguished assembly. 

Thus it is clear that the late Col. E. P. Vollum was 


a man whose position, talents, character, and wealth 
of experience were such as to entitle him to com- 
mand respect, and whose judgment and veracity con- 
cerning any subject he investigated were worthy of 
the utmost consideration. 

Dr. Vollum first became interested in the important 
question of Premature Burial in consequence of his 
own very narrow escape from live sepulture, having 
been pronounced dead from drowning, and prepared, 
for interment, when consciousness happily returned 
spontaneously. It was he who inspired Dr. Franz 
Hartmann to study the occult phenomena of apparent 
death and living burial, the results appearing in a 
volume of which editions have been printed in the 
United States, England, and Germany. On more 
than one occasion Col. Vollum was instrumental in 
rescuing persons from the most horrible imaginable of 
fates, in spite of the opposition and ridicule of 
physicians, priests, and relatives, who loudly protested 
against any delay in the obsequies of those whom 
they erroneously declared to be unmistakably dead. 
Numerous articles and letters from his pen appeared 
in English and American papers, in all of which he 
strongly deprecated the custom of hastily judging by 
appearances, maintaining that putrefactive decomposi- 
tion was the only sure proof of death. 

By the lamentable decease of this eminent doctor,. 


the London Association for the Prevention of Pre- 
mature Burial has sustained irreparable loss, as was 
recognized by the following resolution unanimously 
adopted and placed upon the minutes of the society: 

"That the committee, having heard with much sorrow of the 
death of Colonel Edward Perry Vollum, M.D., who, by his 
collaboration with Mr. William Tebb in the authorship of that 
now well-known work, ' Premature Burial, and How it may be 
Prevented,' as well as in various other ways, has actively pro- 
moted the cause of the association, desires to express its deep 
sympathy with his family, and its sense of the great loss which 
the movement has sustained by his decease." 

Mr. Wm. Tebb, to whose pen we are mainly indebted 
for the production of the first edition of this work 
(the greater part of which was written by him in 
India, in the year 1895), is still with us, watching 
and advising in the compilation of the new edition 
with all the keenness of his ardent nature in spite of 
advancing years. 

Born in Manchester the birthplace of many notable 
reformers on the 22nd October, 1830, he was in his 
youth during the stirring times when Cobden, Bright, 
Fox, Thompson, Joseph Hume, Ebenezer Elliot, and 
many others, roused the masses to a sense of the 
injustice of the Corn Laws and the "protective system," 
and, catching the inspiration of these brilliant ex- 
ponents of freedom and sympathy, a few years later 


found him in Massachusetts, in the United States of 
America, in the thick of the prolonged struggle for 
the emancipation of four millions of slaves. He 
became personally acquainted with William Lloyd 
Garrison, the great anti-slavery apostle, with Wendell 
Phillips, Theodore Parker, Adin Ballou, and other 
leaders, and here by pen and voice assisted for 
several years in exposing and denouncing the shameful 
traffic in human flesh. 

In order to pursue his investigations into the 
subject of the present treatise, and to obtain first- 
hand information calculated to assist him in the 
remedying of other evils, especially those associated 
with the spread of leprosy, Mr. Tebb has travelled 
in nearly every portion of the globe. 

Failing health and advancing years have now 
compelled him to leave the more arduous work 
connected with the various reforms with which his 
name is associated, and which owe so much to his 
zeal and enterprise, to younger men, whose privilege 
it ever is to build upon the foundations laid for 
them by the self-sacrificing efforts of old pioneers 
who have stood grimly and fearlessly in early days 
against the odds of custom, prejudice, influence, and 

My own work in the present volume has consisted 
largely in bringing the treatise as far as possible up 


to date. Cases of less importance, appearing in the 
first edition, have had to make way for those of 
greater importance, and the work has been enlarged 
to the extent of fifty extra pages in order to 
accommodate new material. 

The greatest care has been taken in selecting only 
such illustrations of the subjects dealt with as appear 
to be authentic, and on this account much reliance 
has been placed upon the evidence and statements of 
medical men. It is needless to say that, were all the 
evidence which has accumulated of late years to be 
printed, it would require a volume of considerably 
larger dimensions than the present one. 

The evidence, however, which has been adduced is 
sufficient, both in variety and directness, to arouse the 
careful and thoughtful reader to a realisation of the 
important question which is hereby raised, and 
demands that prompt action be taken by the British 
legislature in order to guard against the repetition 
in this country of the many awful incidents narrated 
in the following pages. 


GLOUCESTER, October, 1904. 


THE fact that a second edition of this work has been 
called for is sufficient evidence of the interest which 
the subject of Premature Burial has created in the 
public mind. There are still, however, persons who 
look upon anyone who seriously touches this question 
as a sensation-monger ; but among the masses of the 
people of to-day, especially of the more thoughtful, 
there is an undercurrent of suspicion that all is not 
right, and it is increasingly felt that something should 
be, and must be, done to remove every element of 
doubt which may be associated with the delicate 
dividing line that lies between latent life and actual 

The peculiar directions laid down by numerous 
testators, such as Herbert Spencer, Edmond Yates, 
Miss Frances Power Cobbe, Wilkie Collins, and others ; 
the feverish search for, and advocacy of, various in- 
ventions by way of injections, of physical tests, and 
of " safety coffins " ; and the increasing popularity of 
cremation, all point to the anxiety which is felt lest 
the horrible fate of premature burial should tragically 
close a life's career. 


It is to be regretted that medical tradition has; 
encouraged the idea that the possibility of burying 
alive is absurd. It is frequently urged, as an argu- 
ment against our contention, that no such irreparable 
mistake as is implied therein is ever likely to be 
made by a medical man. That it is possible, however, 
for medical men to make the serious mistake of 
certifying as " dead " persons who are living will be 
amply proved in the following pages ; but when it is 
remembered that a medical man is entitled by law 
to give a death-certificate without seeing the supposed 
dead at all, and, moreover, that this is the usual 
practice, it will be readily conceived that the " pro- 
tection " claimed for the public does not rest upon 
the most substantial foundation. 

It has been repeatedly stated that the numerous 
published instances of premature coffinment, premature 
burial, and narrow escapes, have never been corrobo- 
rated. Some writers, with amazing assumption, have 
gone so far as to state that " not a single instance 
of premature burial has ever been substantiated by 
evidence such as would carry conviction to a critical 
mind." I ask, in reply, why is it that, of the numerous 
instances which have been published from time to 
time, any attempt at disproof has rarely, if ever, been 
forthcoming ? 

If, however, but a tithe of the hundreds of horrifying 


tragedies which have been collected and recorded 
by many scientific and painstaking authorities are 
true, they form a sufficient ground for the fear 
that, owing to the laxity of our laws, a still larger 
number are consigned to the ghastliest of deaths. 
And when, in addition to the fact that death- 
certificates are usually given without any medical 
inspection at all, it is remembered that the Home 
Secretary, on the 5th of March, 1903, reported over 
fifty-three thousand burials during the past five years 
without even the formality of certifying the causes 
of death, the sense of security will not be by any 
means encouraged. 

In commenting upon a Bill which has been laid 
before the Massachusetts Legislature for the purpose of 
guarding against premature burial, the Medical Press 
of April 27, 1904, describes the stringent tests of 
death which are therein proposed for adoption as 
"elaborate nonsense," and the fear of being buried 
alive is ridiculed by the editor as a "bogey." This 
is not in accordance with the views of the most 
eminent authorities in Europe, who have again and 
again declared the danger to be a real one. The late 
Professor Huxley, F.R.S., testified that the "sign of 
death was an extraordinarily difficult question," and 
Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson, after many years of 
investigation, finally stated, in the Asclepiad, that the 


only trustworthy sign of death was " distinct indication 
of putrefactive decomposition." 

Direct evidence as to premature burial is very 
difficult to obtain, as the proportion of disinterments 
to burials is only about one in fifty thousand ; but 
there is sufficient evidence to show that the danger 
exists. Dr. Franz Hartmann, who has devoted con- 
siderable attention to this subject, states that during 
the months of May and June, 1896, he received no 
less than sixty-three letters from people who had 
escaped burial alive at the last moment. In all, he 
has collected over seven hundred cases, and furnished 
details of over one hundred. The Lancet has borne 
frequent testimony to these disasters ; and in its issue 
of September 12, 1896, p. 785, is recorded the follow- 
ing from its Cork correspondent as having occurred 
at Little Island, Ireland, which, the writer says, is 
thoroughly vouched for: "A child of four years of 
age contracted (typhoid) fever, and to all ordinary 
appearances died. The time of the funeral was 
appointed, and friends were actually on their way 
to attend it. When the supposed corpse was about 
to be removed from the bed to the coffin signs 
of animation were exhibited. The services of the 
medical man were again requisitioned, and the child, 
opportunely rescued from such a terrible death, is 
now progressing satisfactorily." 


A "death" occurred in Cheltenham some years ago, 
of which I was informed by a lady who was in the 
house at the time. The funeral arrangements were 
in full operation, when the " corpse " a gentleman 
of over seventy years of age sat up, and lived for 
more than two years in the full enjoyment of his 
faculties, notwithstanding the fact that he had been 
certified dead ! A gentleman of my acquaintance, 
living in Brussels at the present time, was, some few 
years ago, certified as dead by his medical attendant, 
laid out for dead, and was just on the point of 
being carried to the grave, when he gave signs of 
life. Instances such as these point conclusively to 
the dangers and the risks associated with death- 
counterfeits, and the necessity there is to consider 
seriously how such dangers and risks may be avoided. 

The law protects the citizen's life, property, and 
every other interest up to the moment when the death 
scene supervenes; then it leaves him, and provides no 
protection whatever against mistakes which may be 
made at this supreme crisis. The extensive Biblio- 
graphy at the close of this volume is sufficient to 
show that a subject which has created so much 
attention among the highest scientific authorities in 
this and other countries is one which is worthy of 
immediate and earnest consideration by the Legis- 
lature. Every citizen has a fundamental right to life, 


and in the interests of the citizen, of his family, and 
of the State, the latter should protect that right by 
every means in its power, by guarding against its 
sacrifice. The Medical Times and Hospital Gazette 
of April 1 8, 1903, in a leading article on death- 
certification, has well said: "It must be remembered, 
as we have more than once demonstrated, that there 
is a powerful and increasing body of public opinion 
in this country demanding some safeguard against 
what is believed to be the possibility of burial alive, 
in consequence of the present laxity of the law." 

Our object is to press upon the public the urgent 
necessity of enactment by Parliament That no medical 
certificate of death shall be accepted unless the person 
signing it shall have seen and carefully examined the 
body of the person so certified ; that such body shall 
not be buried until the first sign of putrefaction is 
apparent ; and that, in the interests of life and health, 
attractive waiting mortuaries, somewhat after the 
pattern of those erected on the Continent (described 
in chapter xxii. of this edition), shall be provided by 
every sanitary district in the kingdom. 




" An attempt to show that very great dangers exist from out 
neglect of basing the decision that death has taken place upon any 
symptom but the absolute one of putrefaction has just been made 
in a very interesting book, entitled ' Premature Burial.' To do this 
a very great number of cases of premature burial have been collected 
and set forth. We are shown that these cases in fact occurred, be- 
cause men are apt to count as signs of death signs which are not 
absolute, and may only indicate suspended animation. From this the 
writers argue, and as we think justly, that there should be a change 
of the law as regards death certification, and as to the treatment of 
bodies before interment." 


" The work on ' Premature Burial,' by Mr. Tebb and Col. E. P. 
Vollum, has already attracted considerable notice, but we have not 
been able to notice it as early as it deserved. The subject is a pain- 
ful one, and it demands more attention than has yet been give to it, 
though the twenty or more pages of the bibliography of the subject 
appended to this volume show that it has not been neglected. But 
from the frequency of the occurrences described, we are led to be- 
lieve that people generally, and ordinary medical practitioners, do 
not appreciate the seriousness of the matter. Without entering into 
details, we hope that this book will meet with the attention it de- 
serves, and that it may be the means of saving many people in future 
from that most horrible fate imaginable, known as a ' living tomb.' ' 


" A work well worthy of serious consideration. It would seem 
that the Government might do worse than appoint a Royal Com- 
mission to inquire into the whole subject of such allegations." 


" ' Premature Burial ' deals with a subject that is a real source 
of anxiety to a good many people, and which, to the disgrace of the 
legislature, is not an altogether unreasonable trouble. We are too 
casual in our methods of death registration ; too much latitude is 
given to registrars of deaths, who, in the large majority of cases, 
receive certificates from medical men who have not actually seen 


the remains of those whose deaths they certify. We must do the 
authors the justice to acknowledge that they have not quoted the 
very ghastly cases on record, but those from reliable and scientific 
men, who may be presumed to write without bias. Correspondence 
in our own columns has shown that the fear of premature burial is 
tolerably widespread, and if such books as this lead to the exercise 
of more care on the part of responsible authorities, they will have 
done good service. Altogether, it is a more reasonable book on this 
subject than one generally gets hold of." 


" In the houses of the poor the delay (between death and burial) 
is a cause of sorrowful inconvenience, and sometimes it is objected 
to on sanitary grounds. Neither of these considerations, however, 
can be allowed to weigh for a moment against the supreme im- 
portance of verifying the fact of death. This is a point as to which 
it is to be hoped there will be no giving way on the part of the 
conservative instincts of our people. So long as it is maintained, 
there can be no appreciable danger of the frightful contingency of 
premature inhumation." 


" Unfortunately the fact is beyond dispute that many people have 
been buried alive, and have regained consciousness within the coffin. 
Enough air is buried with a man in a coffin to support life for a 
certain number of hours, and even beyond that air will filter through 


" The book sets forth, with an extensive learning in the literature 
of its subject (of which it gives a full bibliography), a number of 
cases of live sepulture, and uses them as the basis of an argument 
for legislation to establish waiting mortuaries, and take other pre- 
cautions against such interments. The book will prove useful to 
anyone interested in its subject. 


" Society is indebted to the authors for a scientific and tem- 
perately written treatise, in which the more sensational and 
horrifying cases are avoided, with the view of sparing the reader 
unnecessary pain. There can be no question that the sooner this 
subject is actively dealt with the better for the community." 


" An important work containing a vast amount of unimpeachable 
evidence to show that a very real danger exists, and that strong 
measures ought to be taken to safeguard the public against it." 



" Horrible as are some of the details, they enforce the authors' 
plea for more careful examination of the presumably dead, and their 
arguments have great force." 


" The moral of the book is that burial alive is a far greater 
danger than most people suppose." 


" That there is real danger in hurried interments, no one who 
glances at this volume can doubt, and the authors' contention that 
the subject of the book should be legislated upon is reasonable. The 
book is greatly enhanced in value by an exhaustive bibliography and 
an excellent index." 


" The whole subject is exhaustively treated in this volume, which 
people interested would do well to give their careful perusal. It is 
extremely well done." 


11 A valuable and interesting volume." 


" The work sets forth some very convincing statements, and has 
fully justified the authors in presenting their joint opinion on a 
subject that ought to concern the community. They adduce quite a 
plethora of evidence to sustain their contention." 


" An elaborate treatise touching every side of this subject bears 
the signatures of William Tebb, F.R.G.S., and Colonel Edward 
Perry Vollum, M.D., both of whom have had personal experiences 
of a kind that leads them to think that many people are daily buried 
alive. The uncertainty of the signs of death is dealt with at great 
length, and historical and contemporaneous cases of recovery from 
apparent death are cited." 


" The subject of premature burial is one of universal interest, and 
those who have it at heart cannot do better than make themselves 
as familiar with the subject as the exhaustive work before us admits. 
The writers have brought together a mass of facts and figures bear- 
ing on the question, and their conclusions are not to be denied or 
their labour undervalued. The book may strike a chord of interest, 
and arrest an attention that will be the means of a thorough recon- 
sideration of our burial customs." 



"As the study of these counterfeits of death forms no part of the 
ordinary medical curriculum, it is no great wonder that these fatal 
and terrible mistakes do occur. The subject is one of deep and vital 
interest to the whole community." 


" There is no doubt that the law should require a certificate from 
the doctor, not only that he had attended the patient in his last 
illness, and that he was suffering from a disease likely to cause 
death, but that he (the doctor) had also inspected the body and had 
satisfied himself of the fact that death had actually occurred." 


" The book is calculated to arouse public interest in an important 
but much neglected subject, and it will be well for it to receive that 
attention to which the gravity of the question entitles it." 


" The book is nicely got up, and is of a popular readable char- 
acter. " 


" An able and elaborate monograph, which it treats in the most 
thorough and exhaustive fashion, with innumerable references and a 
bibliography of the \vhole subject in many tongues. It is simply 
horrifying to learn that the risk of being buried alive is quite real, 
and considerably greater than ordinary persons imagine." 


" No one with an open mind could read the volume without 
coming to the conclusion that the authors had succeeded in estab- 
lishing a very strong case." 


" The subject of this book is of deep and universal interest, and 
should be specially so to all who are concerned with our physical well- 
being and the preservation of healthy human life to the utmost 
limit that nature permits. Indeed, its importance is generally 
recognised in the abstract ; but little is done or attempted to give 
practical effect to this recognition. No doubt this is mainly due to 
ignorance or inadvertence, and to the fallacy too often fostered by 
medical authority that the risk, if any, is so utterly insignificant tha't 
practically it may be disregarded as of no moment and need not be 
taken into account. As a matter of fact, however, the writers have 
clearly shown by reference to well-authenticated instances that such 
cases are not so infrequent as is generally supposed. Indeed, the 
newspapers of the day give abundant examples of those who have 


narrowly escaped this ghastly fate, and it is much to be feared that 
its fatal completion is still more common. The authors of this book 
appear each to have pursued a separate line of investigation ; the 
one was led, to it from the circumstance that a relative was believed 
to be the subject of premature burial, and the other from having 
himself been laid out for dead, and having but narrowly' escaped 
that terrible catastrophe against which he now raises his warning 
voice. The subject under consideration has of late been much 
debated in the newspapers, but the interest in it is by no means of 
recent origin, as is shown by the bibliography appended to this 
volume, the titles of books and pamphlets on the subject alone, as 
there given, occupying no less than twenty-five pages ; but it may 
well be doubted if it has ever before received such systematic search- 
ing and thorough treatment as in the present work. 

" Fortunately, this is no class or party question, no vested interest 
is threatened, and the time appears singularly opportune for prompt 
and effective legislation to allay widespread popular apprehension, 
which, unchecked, might become a panic." 


" Of all the various forms of suspended animation and apparent 
death, trance and catalepsy are the least understood and the most 
likely to lead the subject of them to a premature burial, and 
to these the authors have devoted considerable attention, and other 
interesting chapters deal with the questions of animal and so-called 
human hibernation, premature burial, probable causes of premature 
burial, predisposing causes and conditions of death-counterfeits, the 
danger of hasty burials, the signs of death, the duration of death 
counterfeits, death certification, the Jewish practice of early burial, 

"In order to prevent unnecessary pain to the reader on a 
subject so distressing in its nature, the more sensational cases of 
premature burial have been omitted, but these can be found in 
abundance in the writings of Bruhier, Koppen, Kempner, Lenor- 
mand, Bouchut, Russell Fletcher, and others." 


11 ' Premature Burial ' deserves careful perusal and serious con- 
sideration. We fully believe the medical profession are blind, as a 
rule, to the necessity for greater care in the giving of death certifi- 
cates, and that the danger of burying people who have not really 
died is a growing and ghastly one. The numerous cases recorded 
in this volume must convince any unbiassed reader that this is the 


" This book is a substantial well-printed octavo volume of four 
hundred pages divided into twenty-two chapters, each dealing with 
some particular phase of the general subject, such as tranco. 
catalepsy, premature burial, narrow escapes from premature burial, 
predisposing causes and conditions of death counterfeits, the danger 


of hasty burials, death certificates, and suggestions for prevention. 
The authors tell us that the work has been prepared with the view 
to guiding the public to the dangers of our present mode of treating 
the apparently dead, in the hope that reforms and preventive 
measures may be instituted without delay in order to put an end 
to such unnecessary domestic tragedies. 

" There are also six appendices and a valuable bibliography. 
Although attention has of late been largely directed to this question 
by discussions in the press, and considerable interest in it has been 
revived, probably many will be surprised to find that the question 
raised is by no means of recent origin, and that those who have 
written upon it have not been a few alarmists and faddists, but in 
many cases men of the highest reputation and scientific attainment. 

" Notwithstanding the number of books mentioned in the biblio- 
graphy appended to this volume, there can be no doubt that this 
is the most valuable and important contribution to the literature of 
the subject in the English language which has yet appeared ; it may 
not be such attractive reading as the fashionable novel, and some 
of its details may appear gruesome, but its importance can hardly 
be over-estimated. 

" The book is thoroughly scientific in its spirit and its treatment 
of the question ; it is temperately written, and its bibliography a 
monument of careful and laborious research, its exact reference to- 
the numerous authorities quoted makes it not only valuable as a 
useful book for present reading but for future reference. We cordially 
commend it, and have no doubt that it will be largely instrumental 
in attaining the laudable object for which it has been written." 


" Though attempts have been made in certain quarters to pooh- 
pooh the subject, no one who reads this work can doubt that burial- 
alive is by no means an uncommon occurrence. There is ample 
reason for the appearance of the book." 


"A priori, one would think that it is easy enough to tell when a 
man is dead, or at least for the qualified medical man to do so. But 
in view of the lamentable mistakes that are on record, one comes 
to the conclusion that there are instances where it is very difficult, 
if not impossible for anyone to say for certain that life is extinct. 
Time alone will show." 


" There are few things that serve to inspire in men's minds 
greater terror than the idea of being buried alive. The authors 
cite a number of cases to show that the ceasing of the principle of 
life to manifest its activity in a human body is no proof of actual 
death. After presenting convincing proofs of the accuracy and 1 
frequency of such cases, they proceed to formulate methods by which 
the cruel practices should be discouraged for the future." 



" Many of the points to which they (the authors) draw attention, 
the perfunctory fashion, for instance, in which death certificates are 
made out, are worthy of earnest consideration." 


" We are glad to see that Mr. Tebb and Dr. Vollum's important 
work on ' Premature Burial and how it may be Prevented ' is attract- 
ing considerable attention. The book has special reference to trance, 
catalepsy, and other forms of suspended animation, and is therefore 
of peculiar interest to us. It is not at all necessary to attempt to 
work up feeling on the subject, and the writers of this book avoid 
it. They are practical men, and understand how to let facts speak 
for themselves. The larger half of the book deals with the danger ; 
and here the demonstration is complete. A discussion of remedies 
follows, the one most relied upon being mortuaries, the structure 
and management of which are carefully described. These, say our 
authors, ' ought to be provided, as far as practicable, in every parish, 
and certainly in every Sanitary District in the United Kingdom, 
and by the Boards of Health in the United States, and adapted to 
the requirements of the population. ' We entirely agree. This is 
the remedy, as anyone would see who would carefully read Chapter 
XXI. of this helpful book, a chapter which ought to be printed 
separately and well distributed to county and parish councils." 


" This book is essentially practical, well written, free from dry- 
ness or redundancy. Though it does not profess to establish an 
absolute method of guaranteeing us all from the horrors of prema- 
ture interment, still it teems with so much practical information on 
the subject that our boasted modern sanitary science must be poor 
indeed if it learns naught therefrom. We agree with its implication 
that from an over-worked and not over-practical Parliament little 
amelioration is at present to be hoped for, but that assuredly private 
initiative in these days of philanthropic associations ought to 
supplement this. And no better step can be taken in that direction 
than by promoting the circulation and careful perusal of the most 
able work we have yet encountered on this all-important subject." 


" One of the authors visited Ceylon, at the beginning of this year, 
and cites facts from the customs in vogue in this island to show that 
there is absolutely no security against premature burial, with the 
names of various authorities. Some sensible and practical sugges- 
tions are made to prepare the way for bringing about certain needed 


''The pages are replete with instructive though at times gruesome 
details, and the subject is one of such vast importance that it would 


be well for all medical men who are not already familiar with its 
literature to read the book and remember the lesson it teaches. Any- 
thing" must be welcome which will tend to remove the senseless fear 
of the dead, and prevent friends from deserting the bedside the 
moment life is supposed to be extinct, giving over the body to those 
who will immediately take steps to complete the extinction rather 
than to fan back into life any spark of vitality which may remain 
in a doubtful case." 


" An exhaustive treatise into the causes of premature burial and 
on the methods of preventing this terrible danger, which is likely to 
attract g-eneral attention. There is something- about the mere idea of 
being buried alive which causes one to shudder, and when specialists 
affirm that the number of cases of premature burial are numbered by 
thousands, the question becomes one which appeals to the sympathy 
and co-operation of the community at large." 


" The authors have examined into the causes of suspended anima- 
tion, and studied the literature on the subject. They furnish proofs 
to show that many people are buried alive in all countries not pro- 
tected by laws. The present serious discussion should open people's 
eyes to a real dang-er. " 



Preface to First Edition - 5 
Introduction to First Edition 

Preface to Second Edition - 15 

Introduction to Second Edition 23 

Opinions of the Pyess - 29 

Trance 4 1 

Catalepsy 57 

Animal and So-called Human Hibernation 68 

Premature Burial 81 

Narrow Escapes from Premature Burial - 98 

Formalities and their Fatal Consequences - 133 

Premature Burial of Doubtful Cases . .V;.. - 141 



Predisposing Causes and Conditions of Death- Counterfeits 149 


Premature Burial and Cremation in India, The Towers 

of Silence 159 

The Danger of Hasty Burials - 175 


Fear of Premature Burial - 1 86 

Sudden Death - 194 

Signs of Death - 219 

Duration of Death-Counterfeits - 248 


The Treatment of the Dead - - 256 

Number of Cases of Premature Burial - -261 


Embalming and Dissections - - 277 

Death-Certification - 282 

Suggestions for Prevention - 303 



Count Karnice-Karnicki's Invention - - 320 


Cremation as a Preventive - 324 

Waiting Mortuaries 335 

Conclusion - - 366 

Historical Cases of Restoration from Apparent Death - 371 


Resuscitation of Still-Born and other Infants - - 386 

Recovery of the Drowned 392 

Embalming in the United States - 395 

Summary of Ordinances, etc., Relating to the Inspection of 

Corpses and of Interments - - 398 

The Jewish Practice of Early Burial - 406 

Bibliography - 409 

Index - . . . . . 441 



William Tebb Frontispiece. 

Count Karnice-Karnickis Apparatus - 321 , 323 

Munich Mortuary, Exterior - -341 

Munich Mortuary, Interior - - 343, 345 

Munich Mortuary, Caretaker 's Room - 347 







OF all the various forms of suspended animation and 
apparent death, trance and catalepsy are the least 
understood, and the most likely to lead the subject of 
them to premature burial ; the laws which control them 
have perplexed pathologists in all ages, and appear to 
be as insoluble as those which govern life itself. 


In an interesting article upon the subject by A. T. 
Myers, M.A., M.D., M.R.C.P., which appears in " Fowler's 
Dictionary of Practical Medicine," the writer says : 
" Trance, in the ordinary sense, is a term of somewhat 
vague limits, but had best, perhaps, be confined to a 
prolonged and rare condition of abnormal sleep, which 
is produced by no known external agency, is generally 


entirely passive, in which the vital functions are reduced 
to an abnormally low minimum, and from which the 
entranced patients cannot be aroused by such ordinary 
excitants as would be more than sufficient to wake them 
from normal sleep. They can assimilate food artificially 
given, and may remain in this trance condition for as 
long as twenty-three weeks (Gairdner), or even for a 
year (P. Richer). . . . There is an absence, complete 
or incomplete, of sensation, and, in a less degree, of 
motion ; and of deep and superficial muscular reflexes. 
The breathing becomes nearly imperceptible, it may 
even be impossible to see any cloud on a clear mirror 
held before the mouth ; the respiratory movements may 
be imperceptible, or at least so infrequent as three in 
two minutes, the pulse and the action of the heart may 
be impalpable, though the condition of the retina will 
show that very slow circulation is still being kept up. 
The temperature is low, but has not been observed below 

97 F. 


In Fagge & Pye Smith's Text-book of Medicine, 4th 
edition, vol. L, p. 972, the authors, commenting upon the 
symptoms as described above, remark: "These are the 
cases \vhich have led to the popular belief that death is 
sometimes only apparent, and that there may be a 
danger of persons being buried alive ; and it cannot be 
denied that a patient in such a condition may easily be 
allowed to die by careless or ignorant attendants, or 
might be buried before death." Dr. Herbert Mayo, in 
" Letters on Truths contained in Popular Superstitions," 
p. 34, after detailing similar signs and symptoms, asserts : 
" There has occurred every shade of this condition that 


can be imagined, between the occasional slight mani- 
festations of suspension of one or other of the vital 
functions, and their entire disparition." He adds: " In 
any form of disease where the body is brought into a 
certain state of debility, death-trance may supervene." 

Macnish, who says the function of the heart must 
go on, and even of the lungs, however slightly, 
declares : " No affection to which the animal frame is 
subject, is more remarkable than this. . . . There is 
such an apparent extinction of every faculty essential to 
life, that it is inconceivable how existence should go on 
during the continuance of the fit." (Philosophy of 
Sleep, Glasgow, 1834, pp. 225-6.) 

In " Quain's Dictionary of Medicine," 1902, Dr. W. R. 
Gowers says : " The mental functions seem in most cases 
to be in complete abeyance. No manifestation of 
consciousness can be observed or elicited by the most 
powerful cutaneous stimulation, and on recovery no 
recollection of the state is preserved ; but in some 
Ceases volition only is lost, and the patient is aware of all 
that passes, although unable to give the slightest 
evidence of consciousness." 

"In the cases in which the depression of the vital 
functions reaches an extreme degree, the patient appears 
dead to casual, and sometimes to careful, observation. 
This condition has been termed 'death-trance' (Schein- 
tod). Persons have certainly been buried in this state; 
and during the recent epidemic of influenza, an Italian 
narrowly escaped interment during the consequent trance." 

Dr. Gowers quotes a well-authenticated case mentioned 
by Mr. John Chippendale, F.R.C.S., in the Lancet, 1889, 
vol. i., p. 1,173, f a man, who during an illness was 


seized with trance, and who yet, whilst lying in " cold 
abstraction," was aware of all that was passing. At last, 
as he was about to be covered in his coffin, his mental 
condition was such, that he broke into a profuse sweat, 
which was fortunately perceived, and he recovered, and 
was able to recount his experiences. 

He further mentions a case, observed by Rosenthal, 
where, thirty hours after supposed death, the muscles 
were still excitable, and in forty hours the patient awoke. 

Dr. Mason Good, in " Standard of Medicine," vol. v., p. 
6 1 -8, relates a case of " death-trance," in which a patient 
was fortunate enough to have her interment postponed in 
order to allow a post mortem (!) examination to be made. 
On being submitted to the scalpel, the first touch 
brought her to her senses, and threw her into a state of 
violent agitation, the anatomist being almost as frightened 
as herself. 


Hufeland says in his " Uncertainty of Death " : 
" It often happens that a person is buried in a trance, 
knowing all the preparations for the interment, and this 
affects him so much that it prolongs the trance by its 
depressing influence. How long can a man exist in a 
state of trance ? Is there no sign by which the remain- 
ing spark of life may be recognised ? Do no means 
exist to prevent awakening in the grave ? Nothing can 
be said as to its duration ; but we do know that differ- 
ences in the cause and circumstances will cause a differ- 
ence in duration. The amount of strength of the person 
would have great effect in this. Weak persons, broken 
down by excesses, would die sooner than the strong. 



The nature of the disease would make a difference. 
Old age is less liable to trance than the young. Long 
sickness destroys the sources of life, and shortens the 
process of death. Sorrow and trouble, and numerous 
Diseases, seem to bring on death ; yet ofttimes the source 
of life in them exists to its full extent, and what seems 
in them to be death may be only a fainting fit, or cramp, 
which temporarily interrupts the action of life. Women 
are more liable to trance than men ; most cases have 
happened in them. Trance may exist in the new-born ; 
give them time, and many of them revive. The smell 
of the earth is at times sufficient to wake up a case of 
trance. Six or seven days, or longer, are often required 
to restore such cases." (Extracted from pp. 10-24.) 


Many notable persons have at one time or another been 
subject to this disorder. Speaking of Benjamin Disraeli, 
Mr. J. Fitzgerald Molloy, in his " Life of the Gorgeous 
Lady Blessington," vol. xi., pp. 37-38, says that in his 
youth he was seized with fits of giddiness during which 
the world would swing round him ; he became abstracted 
and once fell into a trance, from which he did not recover 
for a week. 

The mother of General Lee, the well-known Confede- 
rate General in the American Civil War, was subject to 
trance seizures, and on one occasion was pronounced 
dead by the physician, and " buried." Whilst, however, the 
sexton was filling in the grave, he heard loud crying and 
knocking, and Mrs. Lee was rescued from her perilous 
position and a horrible fate. 

A romantic but true story attaches to Mount Edg- 


cumbe. In the church which adjoins the estate, the 
grandmother of the present earl was buried alive. In a 
trance she was laid for dead in the family vault. It was 
known that upon one of her fingers was a precious ring. 
The sexton went at dead of night, and endeavoured to* 
force the trinket from the lady's hand. It aroused 
her, and she sat up. The man fled in terror, leaving the 
doors of the vault and church open. Lady Mount 
Edgcumbe walked to her house in her shroud. Upon 
being received by her husband she fainted. When she 
revived, she found herself in bed, dressed in her ordinary 
sleeping attire. She was induced to believe that she 
had been the victim of a hideous nightmare, and never 
knew the real circumstances. 

The late Madame Blavatsky was subject to death- 
like trances, and Dr. Franz Hartmann informs me that 
she would have been buried alive if Colonel Olcott had 
not telegraphed to let her have time to awaken. 

Schwartz, the first eminent Indian missionary, was 
roused from his supposed death by hearing his favourite 
hymn sung over him previous to the last rites being 
performed, and his resuscitation was made known by his 
joining in the verse. 


The Lancet, of December 22, 1883, pp. 1078-80, 
contains particulars from the pen of W. T. Gairdner, 
M.D., L L.D., etc., Professor of Medicine in the Uni- 
versity of Glasgow, of a remarkable case of trance,, 
extending continuously over more than twenty-three 
weeks, which attracted a considerable amount of notoriety 
at the time, and led to an extensive discussion. In his 


comments upon the case, the author continues in the 
issue of January 5, 1884, pp. 5-6: "The peculiar in- 
terest of the present case is that it is altogether devoid 
of ... romantic incidents. The patient is a mother 
of a family, and has lived a strictly domestic and (up to 
a short time before her seizure) healthy and regular life. 
There is no history of inveterate hysteria, or of long 
continued rapt contemplation ; nor has there been the 
slightest evidence of any craving after notoriety, either 
before the attack, or since its termination. The moral 
atmosphere, in short, surrounding the phenomena, is alto- 
gether unfavourable to exaggeration and imposture, for 
which, indeed, no reasonable motive can be assigned. 
Nevertheless, under these very commonplace conditions, 
concurring with some degree of melancholy or mental 
despondency after delivery, but, during a convalescence 

otherwise normal, Mrs. M'l presents to our notice a 

condition of suspended consciousness and disordered in- 
nervation in no degree less extreme than the " trances " 
or cataleptic attacks which have been recorded as the 
result of the most aggravated hysteria, or as the miracles 
of religious ecstacy and profound mental emotion. She 
becomes, for the long period of over a hundred and sixty 
days continuously, an almost mindless automaton, con- 
nected with the external world only through a few 
insignificant reflexes, and through the organic functions. 
She is absolutely passive as regards everything that 
demands spontaneous movement, and betrays almost no 
sign of sensation, general or special, when subjected to the 
several tests that can be applied short of physical injury." 
In further notes upon the case in the Lancet, of January 
12, 1884, p. 58, Professor Gairdner cites the case of a 


woman of small stature, and weak mental capacity, aged 
27, who, when under the care of Dr. Langdon Down, at 
the London Hospital, became suddenly somnolent, and 
had to be fed by nutrient enemata for three weeks, and 
for some days by a tube forced through the nostrils into 
the stomach. Dr. Langdon Down furnished him with 
the following interesting particulars. 

" My patient, who was in a state of trance, recovered 
somewhat suddenly after about four weeks, and left the 
hospital. The first indication of returning consciousness 
was observed when I was reading to my class at her bed- 
side one of the numerous letters that I had received en- 
treating me not to have her buried until something which 
the writers recommended had been done. The para- 
graph of the Medical Journal got into some Welsh paper, 
and then went the round of the provincial press ; hence 
the number of letters I received. This special one was 
from an old gentleman of 84 years, who, when he was 
24, was thought to be dead, and whose friends had 
assembled to follow him to the grave, when he heard the 
undertaker say : ' Would anyone like to see the corpse 
before I screw him down ? ' The undertaker at the same 
time moved the head a little, and struck it against the 
coffin, on which he aroused, and sat up. On reading this 
aloud a visible smile passed over the face of my patient, 
and she returned to obvious consciousness soon after. 
She has not come under observation since she left the 


Thomas More Madden, M.D., F.R.C.S. (Edin.), in an 
article on " Death's Counterfeit " in the Medical Press 


and Circular, vol. i., April 27, 1887, pp. 386-8, relates 
the following cases of " so-called hysteric trance " : 

" A young lady, Miss R , apparently in perfect 

health, went to her room after luncheon to make some 
change in her dress. A few minutes afterwards she was 
found lying on her bed in a profound sleep, from which 
she could not be awakened. When I first saw her 
twenty-four hours later, she was sleeping tranquilly, the 
decubitus being dorsal, respiration scarcely perceptible, 
pulse seventy, and extremely small ; her face was pallid, 
lips motionless, and the extremities very cold. At this 
moment, so death-like was her aspect, that a casual 
observer might have doubted the possibility of the vital 
spark still lingering in that apparently inanimate frame, 
on which no external stimulus seemed to produce any 
sensorial impression, with the exception that the pupils 
were normal and responded to light. Sinapisms were 
applied over the heart and the legs, where they were left 
on until vesication was occasioned without causing any 
evidence of pain. Faradisation was also resorted to 
without effect. In this state she remained from the 
evening of December 3ist until the afternoon of January 
3rd, when the pulse became completely imperceptible ; 
the surface of the body was icy cold, the respiratory 
movements apparently ceased, and her condition was 
to all outward appearance undistinguishable from death. 
Under the influence of repeated hypodermic injections 
of sulphuric ether and other remedies, however, she 
rallied somewhat, and her pulse and temperature 
improved. But she still slept on until the morning of 
the Qth, when she suddenly woke up, and to the great 
astonishment of those about her, called for her clothes, 


which had been removed from their ordinary place, and 
wanted to come down to breakfast, without the least 
consciousness of what had occurred. Her recovery, I 
may add, was rapid and complete. 

" The next case of lethargy that came under my 
notice was that of a boy, who, after an attack of fever, fell 
into a state of complete lethargic coma, in which he lay 
insensible between life and death for forty-seven days, 
and ultimately recovered perfectly. 

" In a third instance of the same kind, in a lady 
under my care, the patient, after a lethargic sleep of 
twenty-seven days, recovered consciousness for a few 
hours, and then relapsed into her former comatose 
condition, in which she died. 

" The fourth case of lethargy which I have seen was, 
like the first, a case of trance, which lasted for seventy 
hours, during which the flickering vital spark was only 
preserved from extinction by the involuntary action of 
the spinal and nervous centres. In this instance the 
patient finally recovered. 

" The fifth and last instance of profound lethargy that 
has come within my own observation occurred last 
autumn, in the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, in a young 

woman In that instance, despite all that 

medical skill could suggest, or unremitting attention 
could do, it was found impossible to arouse the patient 
from the apparently hysterical lethargic sleep in which 
she ultimately sank and died." 

I have referred to the foregoing cases occurring in one 
physician's experience, as disproving the general opinion 
that lethargy or trance is so rarely met with as to be of 
little medical importance. For my own part, I have no 


doubt that these conditions are of far more frequent oc- 
currence than is generally supposed. Moreover, I have 
had reason to know that death is occasionally so 
exactly thus counterfeited that there is good cause for 
fearing the probability of living interment in some cases 
of hasty burial. 


Dr. Madden observes concerning " Death-Trance " : 
" Although the majority of cases in which persons in this 
condition are said to have been consigned to the horrors 
of a living tomb have even less vraisemblance than the 
tale which Edgar Poe founded on the same topic, still 
there can be no doubt of the actual occurrence of such a 
calamity in some well authenticated instances." 

The above medical writer has made an exhaustive 
collection of remarkable cases of trance from the pages 
of medical literature. For instance, he quotes a case 
from "Philosophical Transactions" as far back as 1694, 
of a man aged 25, who slept for nearly a month. Two 
years later he again fell into lethargy, and at first ate, 
drank, etc., though unconsciously, but at length ceased 
doing so altogether, and continued to hibernate for seven- 
teen weeks. In August he fell asleep again, and did not 
wake until November. 

Another case, recorded in the 8th volume of " The 
Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh," is of 
a girl who slept uninterruptedly from the 1st of July 
until the 1st of August. 

And a still further case, noticed by Dr. Cooke in his 
" Treatise on Nervous Diseases," is that of a young 
lady who was for some time subject to repeated 


attacks of lethargy varying in duration from thirty to 
sixty-three hours without seeming to have suffered from 
want of food or otherwise. In the early part of the 
disease various means were employed without the smal- 
lest advantage, save that, whilst under the influence of 
mercury, which produced a very severe salivation, she 
was free from the complaint, and at length she became 

Diembroeck narrates the story of a rustic who was 
supposed to have died of the plague, and was laid out 
for interment three days before he could be carried to 
the grave. When in the act of being buried, he showed 
signs of life, recovered, and lived for many years. 

Dr. Alexander Wilder writing upon this subject says: 
" I have a letter from Dr. Anna E. Park, 367 West 
Twenty-third Street, Xew York City, in which she states 
that she herself had been three times in danger of being 
buried alive." 


The remarkable case of Marguerite Bozenval, " The 
Dormouse of Menelles," caused a great sensation for 
many years. The Paris correspondent of the Morning 
Leader, in a communication dated February I, 1903, 
drew attention to the case, and on the 29th of May 
her death was reported in the same journal. She had 
been in a trance for 20 years. In 1883, when a girl of 21, 
she had a child ; and her companion, as a joke, told her 
one day soon afterwards, that the police had come to 
arrest her. She instantly became unconscious, and, until 
a day or two before her death, she was never aroused 
from her unconscious condition. Her mouth and eyes 
were always closed, but she was fed by a tube which 


was inserted in her mouth, after the doctors had broken 
a tooth for the purpose. Dr. Charlier had attended her 
all the 20 years, and the first sign of dawning conscious- 
ness was in February, when her medical attendant had 
to open an abscess, and she started involuntarily. The 
day before her death, after a violent twitching of the 
limbs, she momentarily opened her eyes, flinched when 
the doctor pinched her, and subsequently asked after 
her grandfather who had been dead many years. She 
did not recognise her mother, and thought her cousin 
was her sister. The effort to speak and rouse herself 
seemed more than the enfeebled frame could bear, and 
she ceased to breathe at nine o'clock in the morning. 


Science Sif tings, June 20, 1903, says: Marie Daskalaki, 
a pretty girl of seventeen, is the object of a popular 
subscription of money to take her to Paris from Athens 
in the hope of getting her awakened from a sleep that 
has lasted for months. The history of the case is unique. 
The girl suffered from a chest affection, and being 
absolutely destitute, was given a bed in the hospital, 
where, when near recovery, she was so frightened by 
seeing a woman dying in the next bed that she lost 
consciousness and has now been sleeping for five months 
and a half. She has since been removed to her parents* 
house, and awakes every five or six days, but falls to 
sleep again almost immediately. She scarcely eats 
anything, sleeps with her eyes open, and appears not to 
hear anything. She is, however, very sensible in her 
waking moments, but at the slightest sound falls back 



The Chief Constable of Hereford, in a letter to Miss 
Lechmere, 8 December, 1902, mentions a case of a 
girl named Sarah Ann Dobbins, aged 1 1 years, of 27 
Blue School Street, Hereford, who died on the I2th of 
August, 1879, after being in a state of trance for three 
weeks. The body was arranged after the manner of all 
corpses, and the door of the room locked for the night. 
In the morning the child wore precisely the same appear- 
ance of death; two young ladies, a Miss Cook and a Miss 
Bethel, called about ten o'clock to see the body, and it 
was then discovered that it had moved. Dr. Smith was 
called in, and the girl recovered. Fourteen years later, 
when she was 25 years old, she committed suicide by 
drowning herself in the river Wye. 

The following case appeared in the Middlesborough 
Daily Gazette, February 9, 1896, and in a number of 
English papers : 

" The young Dutch maiden, Maria Cvetskens, who now lies 
asleep at Stevensworth, has beaten the record in the annals of 
somnolence. At the beginning of last month she had been asleep 
for nearly three hundred days. The doctors, who visit her in great 
numbers, are agreed that there is no deception in the case. Her 
parents are of excellent repute, and it has never occurred to them 
to make any financial profit out of the abnormal state of their 
daughter. As to the cause of the prolonged sleep, the doctors 

Page after page might be filled with similar instances 
of these strange death counterfeits, which have led not 
only to the horrible condition of being laid out for 
interment, but in not a few well authenticated instances, 
to premature burial. Alas, only a limited number of the 


latter instances are known, but those which have come 
to light by the disturbances of old graveyards, and 
judicial enquiries, afford sufficient ground for the sugges- 
tion that many ugly secrets are locked up underground. 
We can but select a few cases out of the wealth of 
material at our disposal, and just those which appear 
to be trustworthy. 


Cases like the following which appeared in the London 
Echo, of January 29, 1901, are sufficient to arouse alarm 
in any sensitive nature. This journal reports that "some 
workmen, opening a vault at Ghent yesterday, were 
horrified to discover the body of a young girl lying 
across the steps leading down into the vault. She was 
quite dead, and had evidently been buried in a trance." 

A correspondent in Spare Moments recalls the pre- 
mature burial in April, 1895, of Ovidio Rossi, Italian 
Consul at Constantinople, whose body was afterwards 
found turned over face downwards, with legs twisted 
and hands contracted, and fists full of hair (see Figaro 
and Petit Journal, April 30, 1895); also the fortunate 
prevention of it at the last moment, in the recent case in 
Varna, where the wife of the wealthy Russian merchant 
Ulyanon, had been medically certified, and was on the 
point of being disposed of, as dead, but who at the date 
of the last report, three weeks after the day fixed for 
the burial, had not shown the slightest sign of decom- 

The Hereford Times of November 16, 1901, reprints 
the following case from Pauillac. A Madame Bobin 
arrived there on board the steamer " La Plata," from 


Senegal. She was supposed to be suffering from yellow 
fever, and was transferred to the Lazaret by order of the 
officer of health. There she became worse, and appar- 
ently died. The body became rigid, and the face ashen 
and corpse-like, and in that condition she was buried. 
The nurse, however, had noticed that the body was not 
cold, and that there was tremulousness of the muscles of 
the abdomen, and expressed the opinion that Madame 
Bobin was prematurely buried. On this being reported 
to Madame Bobin's father, he had the body exhumed, 
when it was found that a child had been born in the 
coffin. The autopsy showed also that Madame Bobin 
had not contracted yellow fever, and had died from 
asphyxiation in the coffin. A suit was begun against 
the health officers and the prefect, which resulted in a 
verdict for 8,000 damages against them. 


CATALEPSY differs in some of its characteristics from 
trance, but the one is often mistaken for the other. It 
is not so much a disease as a symptom of certain 
nervous disorders, to which women and children are 
more particularly liable. Catalepsy can be produced 
artificially by hypnotism. Like trance, it has often 
been mistaken for death, and its subjects buried alive. 
In the religious epidemics of the Anabaptists in 1686, 
and of the Calvinists of St. Medard in 1/31, catalepsy 
appears to have been a contagious disorder induced by 
involuntary imitation. 


I had a striking case in my own practice in 1895. I 
was sent for in the early hours of the morning to see a 
young girl of seventeen, who had spent practically the 
whole of the previous day in Wells Cathedral listening 
to the music and singing in some special services, 
driving afterwards some fifteen miles across country to 
the Somersetshire village where she lived. On arrival 
at the house I was informed by the weeping relatives 
that I was too late ; she was dead. The poor girl had 
fallen in a swoon, whilst sitting in a chair, soon after 
arrival home, and though every effort had been made to 
rouse her they all proved ineffectual ; even then I heard 
her distracted friends shouting her name in her ears 
without effect. 


I found the patient lying with closed eyes, pale and 
corpse-like, upon the bed ; breathing was practically 
imperceptible ; and the pulse, scarcely distinguishable, 
was nevertheless small and rapid. I had lifted the wrist 
from the bed in order to examine the pulse, and was 
struck by the fact that upon releasing it the forearm 
remained suspended and continued in a state of 
suspension for some considerable time. I then put other 
limbs in various positions, placed the body in absurd 
postures, when, to the amazement of the onlookers, such 
positions were maintained, and apparently would have 
been maintained indefinitely had I not restored the 
decubitus. She remained in this condition six days ; her 
friends, one and all, failed in their efforts to arouse her, 
or to gain any response to their calls. Urine and faeces 
passed involuntarily. She lived four miles from my 
residence, and therefore I could only see her morning 
and evening ; and a strange fact was that although her 
relatives could make no impression upon her senses, I 
could, by speaking to her in a commanding voice, get 
her to swallow milk from a feeding cup. The cataleptic 
condition continued throughout ; the arms and legs 
would remain in the most tiring positions in which I 
could place them for far longer periods than they could 
possibly have been sustained in health. 

At the close of the sixth day profuse menstruation 
supervened, and I noticed slight signs of consciousness. 
I told her to sit up, and she did so, and opened her eyes 
vacantly. I left the room for her friends to dress her, 
and on returning later I conversed with her, and found 
her quite oblivious of all that had taken place, but she 
spoke freely of the music and singing, that is, up to the 


point where consciousness had been interrupted. At no 
time subsequently had she any recollection of these six 
days which formed a period of such intense anxiety to 
her friends. I had not at that time become interested 
in the subject of premature burial, but many in the 
district, who had been excited by the sensational event, 
remarked that under other circumstances the result 
might have been of a more serious character. I could 
not but agree with their conclusions. 


Dr. Franz Hartmann differentiates between trance 
and catalepsy, as follows : " There seems hardly any 
limit to the time during which a person may remain in 
a trance ; but catalepsy is due to some obstruction in 
the organic mechanism of the body, on account of its ex- 
hausted nervous power. In the latter case the activity of 
life begins again as soon as the impediment is removed, 
or the nervous energy has recuperated its strength." 

Dr. Gowers, in Quain's " Dictionary of Medicine," ed. 
1894, vol. i., pp. 284-5, describes catalepsy as affecting 
both sexes, at all ages from six to sixty. It is 
a nervous affection, commonly associated with distinct 
evidence of hysteria, but said sometimes to occur as an 
early symptom of epilepsy. It is attended commonly 
with loss of consciousness. The limbs remain in the 
position they occupied at the onset, as if petrified. The 
whole or part of the muscles pass into a state of rigidity. 
In profound conditions sensibility is lost to touch, pain, 
and electricity ; and no reflex movements can be induced 
even by touching the conjunctiva, a state of mental 
trance being associated. 


" Cassell's Family Physician " (by Physicians and Sur- 
geons of the principal London Hospitals) describes this 
singular affection, as follows : " Catalepsy is one of the 
strangest diseases possible. It is of rare occurrence, and 
some very sceptical people have even gone so far as to 
deny its existence. That is all nonsense, for catalepsy 
is just as much a reality as gout or bronchitis. A fit 
of catalepsy for it is a paroxysmal disease consists 
essentially in the sudden suspension of thought, feeling, 
and the power of moving. 

" Cataleptic fits vary very much, not only in their 
frequency, but in their duration. Sometimes they are 
very short indeed, lasting only a few minutes. In one 
case, that of a lady, they would sometimes come on when 
she was reading aloud. She would stop suddenly in the 
middle of a sentence, and a peculiar stiffness of the 
whole body would seize her, fixing the limbs immovably 
for several minutes. Then it would pass off, and the 
reading would be continued at the very word at which it 
had been interrupted, the patient being quite unconscious 
that anything had happened. But sometimes fits such 
as these may last for days and days together, and it 
seems not improbable that people may have been buried 
in this state in mistake for death." 


In a communication received from the eminent 
specialist, Dr. Forbes Winslow, in September, 1903, 
relative to this important subject, he says : 

" All the appearances of death may be so strikingly 
displayed in a person in a cataleptic condition that it is 
quite possible for burial to take place while life is not 


extinct Cases of persons being buried alive occur in 
England much more frequently, I dare say, than is 
generally supposed. I do not consider that the ordinary 
tests employed to ascertain that life is extinct are 
sufficient ; / maintain that the only satisfactory proof of 
death is putrefaction. 

" Trance-sleep is a morbid form of sleep, and has 
often been mistaken for death. In trance-sleep there 
appears to be the same suspension of all animal and 
organic functions which takes place in hybernation, 
but the hemispherical ganglia continue in active oper- 
ation. When the torpid state partially extends to the 
motor system, the cataleptic condition is induced ; 
that is to say, the muscles contract automatically upon 
any slight impression being made upon them. 

" All cases of apparent death present the persistence 
of pulsations of the heart, a character which distinguishes 
them from real death ; this refers especially to those 
due to asphyxia and syncope. 

"The immediate and certain signs of death are 
prolonged absence of cardiac pulsation, the simultaneous 
relaxation of the sphincters, owing to the paralysis of 
the muscles, and finally the sinking of the globe of 
the eye and loss of transparency in the cornea. Only 
the first of these taken by itself is a trustworthy test, 
but even with this we can be deceived ; the certain 
signs being cadaveric rigidity, absence of muscular 
contraction under galvanic stimulation, and the last, but 
certain test, as I have previously stated, putrefaction. 

" I consider the law should be made more stringent, 
as to certifying deaths. To be absolutely satisfactory, 
no certificate should be signed until after proper 


examination of the body, and, indeed, as I have said, 
until there are signs of putrefaction. I always refuse, 
myself, to sign a certificate before careful examination, 
although I have often been asked to do so. 

" A case which illustrates the danger of premature 
burials occurred in my own personal experience not 
long ago. I was called upon to attend an elderly lady, 
and on arriving at the house was told she was dead. 
There was another doctor present, and he also informed 
me that she was dead, and to all appearances that was so. 
There was no pulse, no perceptible heart's action, and 
all the appearances of death were there. I was not 
satisfied, however, and tried bleeding. The result was 
that the lady's blood began to circulate, and she 
recovered consciousness. She had been in a state of 
catalepsy ; but had that case occurred in a hospital, in 
all probability a screen would have been drawn round 
the body, and the matter considered as settled. It is 
mainh- the liability of these conditions - occurring, 
accompanied by all the appearances of death, which 
makes the subject of premature burial so important." 


The following case, contributed by Dr. Gooch, will 
further illustrate this malady : 

"A lady, who laboured habitually under melancholy, a few days 
after parturition was seized with catalepsy, and presented the 
following appearances : She was lying in bed motionless and 
apparently senseless. It was thought the pupils of her eyes were 
dilated, and some apprehensions were entertained of effusion on 
the brain ; but on examining them closely it was found they 
readily contracted when the light fell upon them. The only signs 


of life were warmth, and a pulse which was one hundred and 
twenty, and weak. In attempting to rouse her from this senseless 
state, the trunk of the body was lifted up and placed so far back as 
to form an obtuse angle with the lower extremities, and in this 
posture, with nothing to support her, she continued sitting for 
many minutes. One arm was now raised, and then the other, and 
in the posture they were placed they remained. It was a curious 
sight to see her sitting up staring lifelessly, her arms outstretched, 
yet without any visible signs of animation. She was very thin 
and pallid, and .looked like a corpse that had been propped up and 
stiffened in that attitude. She was now taken out of bed and 
placed upright, and attempts were made to rouse her by calling 
loudly in her ears, but in vain ; she stood up, indeed, but as 
inanimate as a statue. The slightest push put her off her balance, 
and she made no exertion to retain it, and would have fallen had 
she not been caught. She went into this state three times ; the 
first lasted fourteen hours, the second twelve hours, and the third 
nine hours, with waking intervals of three days after the first fit, 
and of one day after the second ; after this time the disease 
assumed the ordinary form of melancholia. The Science and 
Practice of Medicine, by Sir W. Aitken,p. 357. 

Dr. John Jebb, F.R.S., cited in Reynold's " System of 
Medicine," vol. ii., pp. 99-102, has recorded the following 
graphic case : 

" In the latter end of last year (viz., 1781), I was desired to visit 
a young lady who, for nine months, had been afflicted with that 
singular disorder termed a catalepsy. Although she was prepared 
for my visit, she was seized with the disorder as soon as my arrival 
was announced. She was employed in netting, and was passing 
the needle through the mesh, in which position she immediately 
became rigid, exhibiting, in a very pleasing form, a figure of death- 
like sleep, beyond the power of art to imitate or the imagination 
to conceive. Her forehead was serene, her features perfectly 
composed. The paleness of her colour, her breathing at a distance 
being also scarcely perceptible, operated in rendering the similitude 
to marble more exact and striking. The positions of her fingers, 


hands, and arms were altered with difficulty, but they preserved 
every form of flexure they acquired ; nor were the muscles of the 
neck exempted from this law, her head maintaining every situation 
in which the hand could place it as firmly as her limbs," etc. 

Dr. King Chambers, after citing the above case in 
full, continues : 

"The most common exciting cause of catalepsy seems to be 
strong mental emotion. When Covent Garden Theatre was last 
burnt down, the blaze flashed in at the uncurtained windows of 
St. Mary's Hospital. One of my patients, a girl of twenty 
recovering from low fever, was woke up by it and exclaimed that 
the day of judgment was come. She remained in an excited 
state all night, and the next morning grew gradually stiff, like a 
corpse, whispering (before she became quite insensible) that she 
was dead. If her arm was raised, it remained extended in the 
position in which it was placed for several minutes, and then 
slowly subsided. The inelastic kind of way in which it retained 
its position for a time, and then gradually yielded to the force of 
gravity, reminded one more of a wax figure than of the marble 
to which Dr. Jebb compares it. A strange effect was produced 
by opening the eye-lid of one eye ; the other eye remained closed, 
and the raised lid after a time fell very slowly like the arm. A 
better superficial representation of death it is difficult to conceive. 

. . In both these cases I convinced myself carefully that there 
was no deception. 

" Other cases are of much longer duration. . . . The death- 
like state may last for days. It may be mistaken for real death, 
and treated as such. 

<k Any cases of apparent death that did occur (in former days) 
were burnt, or buried, or otherwise put out of the way, and 
were never more heard of. But after the establishment of 
Christianity, tenderness, sometimes excessive, for the remains of 
departed friends took the place of the hard, heathen selfishness. 
The dead were kept closer to the congregations of the living 
as if to represent in material form the dogma of the Communion 
of Saints. This led to the discovery that some persons, indeed 


some persons of note (amongst others, Duns Scotus the theologian, 
at Cologne), had got out of their coffins and died in a vain 
attempt to open the doors of their vaults." 


Dr. Chambers relates several other remarkable cases. 
Here is one : 

" I alighted accidently on another case, communicated to the 
same scientific body (Acad. Royale des Sciences), by M. Imbert 
in 1713. It is that of the driver of the Rouen diligence, aged 
forty-five, who fell into a kind of soporific catalepsy on hearing 
of the sudden death of a man he had quarrelled with. It appears 
that ' M Burette, under whose care he was at La Charite, made 
use of the most powerful assistance of art bleeding in the arms, 
the foot, the neck, emetics, purgatives, blisters, leeches,' etc. At 
last somebody 'threw him naked into cold water to surprise him.' 
The effect surprised the doctors as much as the patient. It is 
related with evident wonder how 'he opened his eyes, looked 
steadfastly, but did not speak.' His wife seems to have been a 
prudent woman, for a week afterwards she ' carried him home, 
where he is at present ; they gave him no medicine ; he speaks 
sensibly enough, and mends every day.' " 

The Lancet, 1870, vol. i., p. 1044, in its Paris corre- 
spondence says : 

"The following curious case is related as having occurred at 
Dunkirk, on April 14, and as 'showing the utility of catalepsy.' 
A young girl of seventeen years was seized with a violent attack of 
epilepsy, and fell, on the above date, into a canal. A boatman 
immediately jumped into the water to save her, and brought her to 
the shore after twenty minutes. The most singular circumstance 
connected with the accident is that, when the young girl was taken 
out of the water, she presented all the symptoms of catalepsy. 
Notwithstanding this long immersion, she was resuscitated, and 
nothing afterwards transpired to cause any anxiety." 


Mr. James Braid, M.R.C.S., in the Medical Times, 
1850, vol. xxi., p. 402, narrates a case of a cataleptic 
woman in the Manchester Royal Infirmary under the 
care of Dr. John Mitchell, and writes : 

" Every variety of contrivance and torture was resorted to by 
various parties who saw her, for the purpose of testing the degree 
of her insensibility, and for determining whether she might not 
be an impostor, but without eliciting the slightest indication of 
activity of any of the senses ; . . . Nevertheless she heard and 
understood all that was said and proposed to be done, and suffered 
the most exquisite torture from various tests applied to her / / 
A fact so important as this ought to be published in every journal 
throughout the civilised world, so that in future professional men 
might be thereby led to exercise greater discretion and mercy in 
their modes of applying tests to such patients." 


The Somerset County Herald (Taunton) of October 12, 
1895, has the following : 

"The wedding nuptials of a sailor from H.M.S. Alexandra and 
a young woman residing in Broadway, who were recently married, 
have been interrupted in a most unusual manner by the newly- 
made bride falling into a trance. On the day following the 
wedding Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer, for such is the name of the 
newly-espoused pair, went for a drive, and on returning in the 
evening the bride, remarking that she did not feel very well, went 
upstairs, and before long was in a sound sleep, which continued 
throughout the night and far into the following day. The relatives 
of the bride, remembering symptoms which she had previously 
developed, then sent for Dr. Pridham, who at once pronounced 
that the unfortunate young woman had fallen into a trance. Dr. 
Colmer, of Weymouth, was likewise called ; but nothing that these 
two medical gentlemen could do had the slightest effect in arous- 
ing their patient from the state of lethargy into which she had so 


suddenly and unexpectedly relapsed. In this condition she re- 
mained for a space of five days, when she gradually showed signs 
of returning animation, and in the course of a few hours regained 
consciousness, though she was then in a very exhausted condition. 
After her wakening the young woman developed inflammation of 
the legs, which was regarded as a very serious condition for her to 
he in. In an interview on Saturday, Dr. Pridham described the 
trance as being exceedingly death-like in character, and added 
that, in such trances as the one in question, in the past people 
have no doubt been actually buried." 

A less experienced practitioner would probably have 
made out a death-certificate, as in numerous similar 
cases. After burial we hear no more of them ; they 
may have been buried in a death -like trance, but the 
medical certificate, no matter how inconsiderately given, 
consigns them to perpetual silence beyond appeal or 
escape. Family remonstrance is then unavailing, for, 
except in cases of strong suspicion of poisoning, no 
Home Secretary or Coroner would grant an order for 

The existence of trance, catalepsy, and other death 
counterfeits followed by hasty burial, has been alluded 
to by reputable writers from time immemorial ; and 
while the veracity of these writers has remained un- 
challenged, and their narratives are confirmed by hun- 
dreds of cases of modern experience, the effect on the 
public mind has been only of a transitory character, 
and nothing has been done either in England or 
America to safeguard the people from such dreadful 




THE following case of the jerboa, or jumping mouse, 
recorded by Major-General Thomas Davies, F.R.S., 
in the " Transactions of the Linnsean Society," L will 
show how far a torpid mammal may be removed 
from the opportunity of breathing, and how imper- 
ceptibly, to the eyes of an observer, its torpid life passed 
into actual death : 

" With respect to the figure given of it in its dormant 
state (plate viii., fig. 6), I have to observe that the 
specimen was found by some workmen in digging the 
foundation for a summer-house in a gentleman's garden, 
about two miles from Quebec, in the latter end of May, 
1787. It was discovered enclosed in a ball of clay, 
about the size of a cricket ball, nearly an inch in thick- 
ness, perfectly smooth within, and about twenty inches 
under ground. The man who first discovered it, not 
knowing what it was, struck the ball with his spade, by 
which means it was broken to pieces, or the ball also 
would have been presented to me. The drawing will 
perfectly show how the animal is laid during its dor- 
mant state [a tawny mouse, with long hind legs and 
j'ong tail, coiled up into a perfect ovoid, of which the two 
'poles are the crown of the head and the rump.] How 

1 " Linnrean Transactions," 1797, vol. iv., p. 155. "An Account of 
the Jumping Mouse of Canada Dipits Catiadensis" 


long it had been underground it is impossible to say; 
but as I never could observe these animals in any parts 
of the country after the beginning of September, I con- 
ceive that they lay themselves up some time in that 
month, or in the beginning of October, when the frost 
becomes sharp ; nor did I ever see them again before the 
last week of May, or beginning of June. From their 
being enveloped in balls of clay, without any appearance 
of food, I conceive they sleep during the winter, and re- 
main for that time without sustenance. As soon as I 
conveyed this specimen to my house, I deposited it, as 
it was, in a small chip box, in some cotton, waiting with 
great anxiety for its waking ; but that not taking place 
at the season they generally appear, I kept it until I 
found it began to smell ; I then stuffed it, and preserved 
it in its torpid position. I am led to believe its not 
recovering from that state arose from the heat of my 
room during the time it was in the box, a fire having 
been constantly burning in the stove, and which in all 
probability was too great for respiration. . . ." 


In his work " On Trance and Human Hibernation, 1 ' 
p. 47, Braid, after citing facts as to higher animals, 
says : " There are other creatures which have not the 
power of migrating from climes too intensely hot for the 
normal exercise of their physical functions, and the lives 
of these animals are preserved through a state of torpor 
superinduced by the want of sufficient moisture, their 
bodies being dried up from excessive heat. This is the 
case with snails, which are said to have been revived by 
a little cold water being thrown on them, after having 


remained in a dry and torpid state for fifteen years. 
The vibrio tritici has also been restored, after perfect 
torpidity and apparent death for five years and eight 
months, by merely soaking it in water. Some small 
microscopic animals have been apparently killed and 
revived again a dozen times by drying and then apply- 
ing moisture to them. This is remarkably verified in 
the case of the wheel-animalcule. And Spallanzani 
states that some animalcules have been recovered by 
moisture after a torpor of twenty-seven years. Accord- 
ing to Humboldt, again, some large animals are thrown 
into a similar state from want of moisture. Such he 
states to be the case with the alligator and boa-con- 
strictor during the dry season in the plains of Venezuela, 
and with other animals elsewhere." " On Trance and 
Human Hibernation," p. 47. 

Dr. Moore Russell Fletcher, in his treatise on {i Sus- 
pended Animation," pp. 7, 8, observes : " Snakes and 
toads live for a long time without air or food. The 
following experiment was made by a Mr. Tower, of 
Gardiner (Maine). An adder, upwards of two feet in 
length, was got into a glass jar, which was tightly 
sealed. He was kept there for sixteen months without 
any apparent change, and when let out, looked as well 
as when put in, and crawled away. 

" The common pond trout, when thrown into snow, 
will soon freeze, remain so for days, and when put into 
cold water to remove the frost becomes as lively as ever. 

"When residing in New Brunswick, in 1842, we went 
to a lake to secure some trout, which were frozen in the 
snow and kept for use. While there we saw men with 
long wooden tongs catching frost fish from the salt 


water at the entrance of a brook. The fish were thrown 
upon the ice in great quantities. We had a barrel of 
them put up with snow and kept frozen, and in a cool 
place. For six or seven weeks they were taken out and 
used as wanted, and might be kept frozen for an in- 
definite time, and be alive when thawed in cold water. 
The two pieces of a fish, cut in two when frozen, would 
move and try to swim when thawed in cold water." 


The bear resembles man in being omnivorous and 
surprisingly intelligent. He often walks on his hind 
paws, and uses his fore paws as he would arms, with 
surprising dexterity. His winter quarters, in which he 
hibernates, are very remarkable. 

When the cold weather arrives he digs a hole in the 
ground, and tries to pile up as many leaves as he can 
around and upon his body. The snow begins to fall, 
until a layer which often, in Russia, reaches to more than 
six feet high is formed. It is a real burial. There are no 
exterior signs of the animal, so that when the inhabitants 
are preparing the winter hunts they have to mark the 
trees of the forest so as to know where he is lying. 

The changes of temperature, thaws, and frosts, with 
new snow continually added, ultimately form a coat of 
ice less permeable than many sandy soils, beneath which 
the animal lives in a lethargic state for three or four 


Dr. Brouardel has spent years in a special study of 
this subject, and has embodied his findings in a remark- 
able book called " Death and Sudden Death," published 


by William Wood & Co., of New York. He says that 
practically all the signs of life may have disappeared, 
and the patient may still be resuscitated. 

In studying this subject, Dr. Brouardel went first by 
the lower animals, and there he found many strange 
cases of apparent death which was not death. From 
this basis he extended his investigations. Here are 
some of Dr. Brouardel's findings : 

" In hibernating animals the functions of respiration 
and circulation are reduced to the minimum during 
their winter sleep. Submit them while in this state to a 
reduction of temperature of 9 to 18 Fahr., and the vital 
phenomena, already nearly imperceptible, are absolutely 
arrested ; so that if you were to cut one of the animal's 
paws, you would have a little oozing of blood, but not a 
stream. Tap the heart with the end of your scalpel, and 
you will not induce a contraction, and it will be equally 
impossible to arouse muscular contractibility. 

" Take these animals now ; warm them gradually for 
an hour up to a temperature of 18 Fahr., and they will 
resume their vital functions. They were, therefore, in a 
state of apparent death. Is there not room for reflection 
when we see how closely these phenomena apply to the 
case of human beings ? " 


Dr. George Moore observes that " A state of the body 
is certainly sometimes produced (in man) which is nearly 
analogous to the torpor of the lower animals a condition 
utterly inexplicable by any principle taught in the schools. 
Who, for instance, can inform us how it happens that 
certain fishes may be suddenly frozen in the Polar Sea, 


and so remain during the long winter, and yet be re- 
quickened into full activity by returning summer."- 
"Use of the Body in Relation to the Mind," p. 31. 

Hufeland, in his " Uncertainty of Death," 1824, p. 12, 
observes that it is easier for man to fall into a 
state of trance than the lower creatures, on account of 
his complicated anatomy. It is a transitory state 
between life and death, into which anyone may pass and 
return from. Trance was common among the Greeks 
and Romans, who, just before cremation, had the custom 
of cutting off a finger-joint, most probably to discover 
if there was any trace of life. Death does not come 
suddenly ; it is a gradual process from actual life into 
apparent death, and from that to actual death. It is a 
mistake to take outward appearances for inner death. 

A remarkable case, resting upon good authority, 
illustrative of the maintenance of life under a partial 
suspension of the action of the heart and lungs, is 
recorded by Cheyne. It is that of Colonel Townshend, 
who appears to have possessed the .power of voluntarily 
dying i.e., of so suspending the heart's action that no 
pulsation could be felt. The longest period in which he 
remained in this inanimate state was about half-an- 
hour, when active life became slowly re-established with- 
out any volition or consciousness on his part. No doubt 
respiration and circulation were feebly continued at 
intervals in this exceptional case, although so slightly 
as to be imperceptible to the examiners, or to be indi- 
cated by pulsation of the radial artery, or by the hand 
placed over the region of the heart. The stethoscope had 
not then been invented, and the method of detecting heart 
sounds by auscultation was unknown ; there are cases, 


however, on record, where even the stethoscope in 
suspended animation has failed to elicit evidence of 
movement. In a hibernating animal, though apparently 
dead, circulation and respiration are, of course, still 
maintained, but are reduced to a minimum. For 
instance, Boncleut found, in his experiments on the 
marmot or mountain rat, that the pulsations of the heart, 
which were 90 when the animal was in an active state, 
were reduced to 8 or 10 in a minute when it was in the 
torpid state. When Colonel Townshend died (he really 
died nine hours after one of these experiments), nothing 
could be detected post-mortem to account for the extra- 
ordinary power which he possessed over the action of 

the heart. 


Mr. Chunder Sen, municipal secretary to the Maha- 
rajah of Jeypore, introduced the author, during his visit 
to India, March 8, 1896, to a venerable and learned 
fakir, who was seated on a couch Buddhist fashion, the 
feet turned towards the stomach, in the attitude of 
meditation, in a small but comfortable house near the 
entrance to the beautiful public gardens of that city. 
The fakir possesses the power of self-induced trance, 
which really amounts to a suspension of -life, being 
undistinguishable from death. In the month of Decem- 
ber, 1895, he passed into and remained in this condition 
for twenty days. On several occasions the experiment 
has been conducted under test conditions. In 1889, 
Dr. Hem Chunder Sen, of Delhi, and his brother, Mr. 
Chunder Sen, had the opportunity of examining the 
fakir while passing into a state of hibernation, and found 
that the pulse beat slower and slower until it ceased to 


beat at all. The stethoscope was applied to the heart 
by the doctor, who failed to detect the slightest motion. 
The fakir, covered with a white shroud, was placed in a 
small subterraneous cell built of masonry, measuring 
about six feet by six feet, of rotund structure. The door 
was closed and locked, and the lock sealed with Dr. 
Sen's private seal and with that of Mr. Dhanna Tal, the 
magistrate of the city ; the flap door leading to the vault 
was also carefully fastened. At the expiration of thirty- 
three days the cell was opened, and the fakir was found 
just where he was placed, but with a death-like appear- 
ance, the limbs having become stiff as in rigor mortis. 
He was brought from the vault, and the mouth was 
rubbed with honey and milk, and the body and joints 
massaged with oil. In the evening manifestations of 
life were exhibited, and the fakir was fed with a spoonful 
of milk. The next day he was given a little juice of 
pulses known as dal, and in three days he was able to 
eat bread and milk, his normal diet. These cases are 
well known both at Delhi and at Jeypore, and the facts 
have never been disputed. The fakir is a Sanscrit 
scholar, and is said to be endowed with much wisdom, 
and is consulted by those who are interested in Hindu 
learning and religion. He has never received money 
from visitors, and the mention of it distresses him. 


The Medical Times of May n, 1850, contains a com- 
munication from Mr. Braid, who says he has " lost no 
opportunity of accumulating evidence on this subject, 
and that while many alleged feats of this kind are 
probably of a deceptive character, still there are others 


which admit of no such explanation ; and that it be- 
comes the duty of scientific men fairly to admit the 
difficulty." He then refers to two documents by eye- 
witnesses of these feats, and which, he says, " with the 
previous evidence on the subject, must set the point at 
rest for ever as to the fact of the feats referred to being- 
genuine phenomena, deception being impossible." In 
one of these instances, the fakir was buried in the 
ground for six weeks, and was, consequently, deprived 
not only of food and drink, but also of light and air ; 
when he was disinterred, his legs and arms were shriv- 
elled and stiff, but his face was full ; no pulse could 
be discovered in the heart, temples, or arms. " About 
three years since I spent some time with a General 

C , a highly respectable and intelligent man, who 

had been a long time in the Indian service, and who 
was himself an eye-witness of one of these feats. A 
fakir was buried several feet in the earth, under vigilant 
inspection, and a watch was set, so that no one could 
communicate with him ; and to make the matter doubly 
sure, corn was sown upon the grave, and during the 
time the man was buried it vegetated and grew to the 
height of several inches. He lay there forty-two days. 
The gentleman referred to passed the place many times 
during his burial, saw the growing corn, was also present 
at his disinterment, and when he questioned the man, 
and intimated to him that he thought deception had 
been practised, the fakir offered, for a sum of money, to 
be buried again, for the same length of time, by the 
General himself, and in his own garden. This challenge, 
of course, closed the argument." 

Cases of this kind might be multiplied on evidence 


which cannot be doubted, and, in Mr. Braid's book, 
entitled " Human Hibernation," there are cases fully 
stated. Sir Claude Wade, who was an eye-witness of 
these feats when acting as political agent at the Court 
of Runjeet Singh, at Lahore, and from whom Mr. Braid 
derived his information, makes the following observa- 
tions : " I share entirely in the apparent incredibility 
of the fact of a man being buried alive and surviving 
the trial for various periods of duration ; but however 
incompatible with our knowledge of physiology in the 
absence of any visible proof to the contrary, I am bound 
to declare my belief in the facts which I have repre- 
sented, however impossible their existence may appear 
to others." Upon this Mr. Braid observes : " Such then 
is the narrative of Sir C. M. Wade, and when we con- 
sider the high character of the author as a gentleman of 
honour, talents, and attainments of the highest order, 
and the searching, painstaking efforts displayed by him 
throughout the whole investigation, and his close prox- 
imity to the body of the fakir, and opportunity of 
observing minutely every point for himself, as well as 
the facilities, by his personal intercourse with Runjeet 
Singh and the whole of his Court, of gaining the most 
accurate information on every point, I conceive it is 
impossible to have had a more valuable or conclusive 
document for determining the fact that no collusion or 
deception existed." 


A case of this kind was exhibited at the Westminster 
Aquarium in the autumn of 1895, which was carefully 
watched and tested by medical experts, without 


detecting any appearance of fraud or simulation. The 
hypnotised man, Walter Johnson, an ex-soldier, twenty- 
nine years of age, was in a trance which lasted thirty 
days, during which time he was absolutely unconscious, 
as shown by the various experiments to which he was 

A case of induced trance and experimental burial, not 
unlike that of the Indian fakirs referred to, was reported 
in the London Daily Chronicle, March 14, 1896. The 
experiment was carried out under test conditions. 

" After being entombed for six days in a hypnotic trance, Alfred 
Wootton was dug up and awakened at the Royal Aquarium 
(Westminster), on Saturday night in the presence of a crowd of 
interested spectators. Wootton was hypnotised on Monday by 
Professor Fricker, and consigned to his voluntary grave, nine feet 
deep, in view of the audience, who sealed the stout casket or coffin 
in which the subject was immured. Seven or eight feet of earth 
were then shovelled upon the body, a shaft being left open for the 
necessary respiration, and in order that the public might be 
able to see the man's face during the week. The experiment 
was a novel one in this country, and was intended to illustrate 
the extraordinary effect produced by the Indian fakirs, and to 
demonstrate the connection between hypnotism and psychology, 
while also showing the value of the former art as a curative agent. 
W 7 ootton is a man thirty-eight years of age ; he is a lead-worker r 
and on Monday weighed lost. 2^1bs. He had previously been in a 
trance for a week in Glasgow, under Professor Pricker's experi- 
enced hands, so was not altogether new to the business ; but he is 
the first to be 'buried alive' by way of amusement. To the un- 
initiated the whole thing was gruesome in the extreme, and this 
particular form of entertainment certainly cannot be commended. 
Before being covered in, Wootton's nose and ears were stopped 
with wax, which was removed before he was revived on Saturday. 
The theory of the burial is to secure an equable temperature day 
and night which is impossible when the subject is above ground 


in the ordinary way and therefore to induce a deeper trance. Of 
course, too, the patient was out of reach of the operator, and no 
suspicion of continuous hypnotising could rest upon the professor. 
No nourishment could be supplied for the same reason, though 
the man's lips were occasionally moistened by means of a damp 
sponge on the end of a rod, and no record of temperature or 
respiration could be kept. A good many people witnessed the 
digging up process, and the awakening took place in the concert 
room, whither the casket and its burden were conveyed. The 
professor was not long in arousing his subject, after electric and 
other tests had been applied to convince the audience that the 
man was perfectly insensible to pain and everything else. Indeed, 
a large needle was run through the flesh on the back of the hand 
without any effect whatever. The first thing on regaining con- 
sciousness that Wootton said was that he could not see, and then 
he asked for drink milk, and subsequently a little brandy, being 
supplied. As soon as possible the patient was lifted out of his box, 
and with help was quickly able to walk about the platform. He 
complained of considerable stiffness of the limbs, and was un- 
doubtedly weak, but otherwise seemed none the worse for his 
remarkable retirement from active life, and abstention from food 
for nearly a week. He was swathed in flannel, and soon found the 
heat of the room very oppressive, though at first he appeared to 
be particularly anxious to have his overcoat and his boots. It 
is anticipated that in a day or two at most Wootton will have 
regained his usual vigorous health." 


Dr. Hartmann in "Premature Burial," page 23, re- 
lates an account of a similar experiment with a fakir, 
differing from the above, however, in so far as it was 
made by some English residents, who did not put the 
coffin into the earth, but hung it up in the air, so as to 
protect it from the danger of being eaten up by white 
ants. There seems to be hardly any limitation in regard 
to the time during which such a body may be preserved 


and become reanimated again, provided that it is well 
protected, although modern ignorance may smile at this 

Those of our readers who wish to pursue this subject 
will find ample material in " Observations on Trance and 
Human Hibernation/' 1850, by James Braid, M.R.C.S. ; 
Dr. Kuhn's report of his investigations of the Indian 
fakirs to the Anthropological Society of Munich, in 
1895 ; the researches of Dr. J. M. Honigberger, a 
German physician long resident in India ; and in the 
India Journal of Medical and Physical Science, 1836, 
vol. i., p. 389, etc. 



AT the sitting of the Paris Academy of Medicine, 
on April 10, 1827, a paper was read by M. Chantourelle 
on the danger of hasty burial. This led to a discussion, 
in which M. Desgenettes stated that he had been told 
by Dr. Thouret, who presided at the destruction of 
the vaults of Les Innocens, that many skeletons had 
been found in positions seeming to show that they had 
turned in their coffins. Dr. Thouret was so much im- 
pressed by the circumstance that he had a special clause 
inserted in his will relating to his own burial. 

Similar revelations, according to Kempner, have fol- 
lowed the examinations of graveyards in Holland, and 
in New York and other parts of the United States. 

The Casket, Rochester, New York, U.S., of March 2, 
1896, gives a detailed narrative of recent discoveries 
made by T. M. Montgomery in the removal of Fort 
Randall Cemetery, with the condition of the bodies 
found as to decay or state of preservation, and says : 

" We found among these remains two that bore every 
evidence of having been buried alive. The first case 
was that of a soldier that had been struck by lightning. 
Upon opening the lid of the coffin we found that the 
legs and arms had been drawn up as far as the confines of 
the coffin would permit. The other was a case of death 
resulting from alcoholism. The body was slightly 


turned, the legs were drawn up a trifle, and the hands 
were clutching the clothing. In the coffin was found a 
large whisky flask. Nearly two per cent, of those 
exhumed here were, no doubt, victims of suspended 

Professor Alexander Wilder, M.D., in a pamphlet 
entitled " Burying Alive a Frequent Peril," mentions a 
number of cases. Among them he cites the case of the 
body of a boy, six years old, discovered during the 
removal of remains from a village cemetery to a new 
one at Philadelphia, in which the arms were bent over 
the skull, one leg drawn up, and the other bent across it 
in such a way as to show that the little fellow, twenty years 
before, had been hurried to the grave whilst still alive. 

Another case, of which he gives the name and address, 
is that of a man of thirty-five, who was supposed to have 
died from scarlet fever, and was buried forty-eight hours 
after. The coffin having to be moved two months later, 
consequent upon another interment, the glass front was 
found to be shattered, the bottom kicked out, and the 
sides sprung. The body lay face downwards, the arms 
were bent, and in the clenched fists were handfuls of hair. 


Dr. Chew says : " Though a layman, still it would be 
hard to find a more indefatigable sanitarian than my 
late commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel R. C. 
Sterndale, of the Presidency Volunteer Rifle Battalion, 
and for many years vice-chairman of the municipality of 
the suburbs of Calcutta. In order to prove his theory 
that a great deal of danger existed in the rainy season 
from subsoil water rising up into the graves, saturating 


the bodies, and then poisoning the neighbouring tanks 
and wells, he caused a trench, ten feet long, six deep, 
and four wide, to be dug across an old Mohammedan 
graveyard. Soundings and measurements having been 
taken of the subsoil water, he had a tarpaulin stretched 
over the trench, and daily measured the ' fall ' of the 
water-level. He had a drawing made of the section of 
that graveyard in which the action of the nitre-laden 
water seemed to mummify some of the bodies. Amongst 
the rest was a somewhat mummified male corpse which, 
instead of being on his back, was lying on his abdomen ; 
the left arm supported the chin, but had a piece of it 
missing ; the right hand clutched the left elbow, and the 
general position of the body was as if, consciousness 
having returned, the alleged corpse sat up, found the 
weight of the earth too heavy to work through, and then, 
dying of suffocation, fell forward in the position in which 
it was found and exposed." 

Dr. Chew adds : " I have heard and read of several 
other instances, but as they have not come within my 
personal observation, I do not mention or refer to them." 


On July 2, 1896, the author visited the grave of 
Madam Blunden, in the Cemetery, Basingstoke, Hants, 
who, according to the inscription (now obliterated), was 
buried alive. The following narrative appears in " The 
Uncertainty of the Signs of Death," by Surgeon M. 
Cooper, London, 1746, pp. 78, 79 : 

" At Basingstoke, in Hampshire, not many years ago, 
a gentlewoman of character and fortune was taken ill, 
and, to all appearances, died, while her husband was on 


a journey to London. A messenger was forthwith 
despatched to the gentleman, who returned immediately, 
and ordered everything for her decent interment. 
Accordingly, on the third day after her supposed 
decease, she was buried in Holy Ghost Chapel, at the 
outside of the town, in a vault belonging to the family, 
over which there is a school for poor children, endowed 
by a charitable gentleman in the reign of Edward VI. 
It happened the next day that the boys, while they 
were at play, heard a noise in the vault, and one of 
them ran and told his master, who, not crediting what 
he said, gave him a box on the ear and sent him about 
his business ; but, upon the other boys coming with the 
same story, his curiosity was awakened, so that he sent 
immediately for the sexton, and opened the vault and 
the lady's coffin, where they found her just expiring. 
All possible means were used to recover her to life, but 
to no purpose, for she, in her agony, had bit the nails 
off her fingers, and tore her face and head to that 
degree, that, notwithstanding all the care that was taken 
of her, she died in a few hours in inexpressible torment." 


The Sunday Times, London, December 30, 1838, 
contains the following : 

"A frightful case of premature interment occurred not long 
since, at Tonneins, in the Lower Garonne. The victim, a man 
in the prime of life, had only a few shovelfuls of earth thrown into 
his grave, when an indistinct noise was heard to proceed from his 
coffin. The grave-digger, terrified beyond description, instantly 
fled to seek assistance, and some time elapsed before his return, 
when the crowd, which had by this time collected in considerable 
numbers round the grave, insisted on the coffin being opened. As 


soon as the first boards had been removed, it was ascertained, 
beyond a doubt, that the occupant had been interred alive. His 
countenance was frightfully contracted with the agony he had 
undergone ; and, in his struggles, the unhappy man had forced his 
arms completely out of the winding sheet, in which they had been 
securely enveloped. A physician, who was on the spot, opened a 
vein, but no blood flowed. The sufferer was beyond the reach 
of art." 

From the Times, July 7, 1867, p. 12, col. 3. 

" The Journal de Pontarlier relates a case of premature inter- 
ment. During the funeral, three days back, of a young woman at 
Montflorin, who had apparently died in an epileptic fit, the grave- 
digger, after having thrown a spadeful of earth on the coffin, 
thought he heard a moaning from the tomb. The body was 
consequently exhumed, and a vein having been opened, yielded 
blood almost warm and liquid. Hopes were for a moment enter- 
tained that the young woman would recover from her lethargy, 
but she never did so entirely, and the next day life was found to 
be extinct." 

From the Lancet, October 19, 1867, p. 504. 

"The Journal de Morlaix mentions that a young woman at 
Bohaste, France, who was supposed to have died from cholera a 
few days back, was buried on the following afternoon. The 
sexton, when about to fill in the grave, fancied that he heard a 
noise in the coffin, and sent for the medical officer, who, on re- 
moving the lid and examining the body, gave it as his opinion 
that the woman had been alive when buried." 

The official journal of the French Senate, January 30. 
1869, records that the attention of the Senate was called 
to this case by means of a petition signed by seven 
residents in Paris, and the facts are confirmed by L. 
Roger, Officier de Sante. 


From the Daily Telegraph, January 18, 1889. 

" A gendarme was buried alive the other day in a village near 
Grenoble. The man had become intoxicated on potato brandy, 
and fell into a profound sleep. After twenty hours passed in 
slumber, his friends considered him to be dead, particularly as 
his body assumed the usual rigidity of a corpse. When the 
sexton, however, was lowering the remains of the ill-fated gen- 
darme into the grave, he heard moans and knocks proceeding 
from the interior of the 'four-boards.' He immediately bored 
holes in the sides of the coffin, to let in air, and then knocked off 
the lid. The gendarme had, however, ceased to live, having 
horribly mutilated his head in his frantic but futile efforts to burst 
his coffin open." 

The Undertakers Journal, September 22, 1893. 

" A shocking occurrence is reported from Cesa, a little village 
near Naples. A woman living at that place was recently seized 
with sudden illness. A doctor who was called certified that the 
woman was dead, and the body was consequently placed in a 
coffin, which was deposited in the watch-house of the local 
cemetery. Next day an old woman passing close to the cemetery 
thought she heard smothered cries proceeding from the watch- 
house. The family was informed, but when the lid of the coffin 
was forced off a shocking spectacle presented itself to the gaze of 
the horrified villagers. The wretched woman had turned on her 
side, and the position of her arm showed that she had made a 
desperate effort to raise the lid. The eldest son, who was among 
the persons who broke open the coffin, received such a shock that 
he died three days later." 

From the London Echo, October 6, 1894. 

" A story of a horrible nature comes from St. Petersburg in 
connection with the interment at Tioobayn, near that city, of a 
peasant girl named Antonova. She had presumably died, and in 
due course the funeral took place. After the service at the 
cemetery, the grave-diggers were startled by sounds of moaning 
proceeding from the coffin. Instead, however, of instantly breaking 


it open, they rushed off to find a doctor, and when he and some 
officials arrived and broke open the shell, the unhappy inmate was 
already the corpse she had been supposed to be a day earlier. It 
was evident, however, that no efforts could have saved life at the 
last moment. The body was half-turned in the coffin, the left hand, 
having escaped its bandages, being under the cheek." 

The London Star, August 19, 1895. 

"Grenoble, August 17. 

" On Monday last a man was found in a dying condition by the 
side of a brook near the village of Le Pin. Everything possible 
was done for him, but he relapsed into unconsciousness, and 
became to all appearance dead. The funeral was arranged, and 
there being no suspicion of foul play, the body was interred on 
the following day. The coffin had been lowered to the bottom of 
the grave, and the sexton had begun to cover it with earth, when 
he heard muffled sounds proceeding from it. The earth was 
hastily removed and the coffin opened, when it was discovered 
that the unfortunate occupant was alive. He was taken to a 
neighbouring house, but rapidly sank into a comatose condition, 
and died without uttering a word. The second burial took place 

A writer in the Referee, May 19, 1901, makes the 
following statement : 

" I once, in my childhood's days, saw a man who had been 
buried alive in the churchyard attached to St. Paul's Church, 
Deptford. It was at the period of the terrible cholera visitation 
which occurred, as near as I can remember, about fifty years ago. 
The burial had proceeded as far as the dirt being sprinkled on the 
coffin when the bystanders thought they heard a noise proceeding 
from it. The coffin was quickly raised, and it was found that the 
man had torn the nails of his hands and feet off in his endeavours 
to get out. He was taken into my father's house, the Pilot, a 
public-house now known by another sign, where he was promptly 
attended to. I saw him about Deptford for years after. Perhaps 
some old Deptford reader may also remember the circumstances." 



Mr. Oscar F. Shaw, Attorney-at-Law, 145 Broadway, 
New York, furnished the author with particulars of the 
following case, of which he had personal knowledge : 
"In or about the year 1851, Virginia Macdonald, who 
up to that time had lived with her father in Catherine 
Street, in the City of New York, apparently died, and 
was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, N.Y. 

" After the burial her mother declared her belief that 
the daughter was not dead when buried, and persist- 
ently asserted her belief. The family tried in various 
ways to assure the mother of the death of her daughter, 
and even resorted to ridicule for that purpose ; but the 
mother insisted so long and so strenuously that her 
daughter was buried alive, that finally the family con- 
sented to have the body taken up, when, to their 
horror, they discovered the body lying on the side, the 
hands badly bitten, and every indication of a premature 

The Daily Express of June 15, 1903, cites a horrible 
case, from its Paris correspondent, of a boy buried 
alive : 

"A ghastly incident is reported from Benevent, where a boy, 
fourteen years of age, was taken ill, and three days ago was 
declared to be dead. The mother went almost mad with grief, and 
force had to be used to get the body from her for interment, 
asserting that her son was not dead. The day after the funeral 
she was discovered to have reopened the grave, removing the 
earth with her hands, and to prove to her that her son was really 
dead when buried the sexton opened the coffin. It was then found 
that the boy, whose body was frightfully contorted, had actually 
been suffocated in the coffin." 


The Daily Mail, August 3, 1903, publishes the 
following from its St. Petersburg correspondent : 

" A terrible occurrence is reported from the South Russian town, 
Novocherkask. The wife of a landed proprietor in the vicinity 
having died, the Orthodox priest persuaded the widower to have 
her buried at once on account of the excessive heat, which was 
likely to hasten decomposition. After the funeral, however, the 
bereaved husband began to feel very uneasy, and on the third day 
he asked the priest's permission to exhume the body to see if his 
wife were really dead. When the coffin was opened a terrible 
sight presented itself to the horror-stricken husband. There had 
evidently been a great struggle, as through the ignorance of the 
priest the woman had been buried while in a comatose state." 


The Lancet, May 22, 1858, p. 519, has the follow- 

"A case of restoration to consciousness after burial is recorded 
by the Austrian journals in the person of a rich manufacturer, 
named Oppelt, at Rudenberg. He was buried fifteen years ago, 
and lately, on opening the vault, the lid of the coffin was found 
forced open, and his skeleton in a sitting posture in a corner of the 
vault. A Government Commission has reported on the matter." 

From the Times, May 6, 1874, p. n, foot of col. 4. 

"The Messager du Midi relates the following dreadful story : 
A young married woman residing at Salon (Douches du Rhone) 
died shortly after her confinement in August last. The medical 
man, who was hastily summoned when her illness assumed a 
dangerous form, certified her death, and recommended immediate 
burial in consequence of the intense heat then prevailing, and 
six hours afterwards the body was interred. A few days since, 
the husband having resolved to re-marry, the mother of his late 
wife desired to have her daughter's remains removed to her native 
town, Marseilles. When the vault was opened a horrible sight 
presented itself. The corpse lay in the middle of the vault, with 



dishevelled hair and the linen torn to pieces. It evidently had 
been gnawed in her agony by the unfortunate victim. The shock 
which the dreadful spectacle caused to the mother has been so 
great that fears are entertained for her reason, if not for her life." 

The British Medical Journal, December 8, 1877, 
p. 819, inserts the following: 

" A correspondent at Naples states that the Appeal Court has 
had before it a case not likely to inspire confidence in the minds 
of those who look forward with horror to the possibility of being 
buried alive. It appeared from the evidence that some time ago 
a woman was interred with all the usual formalities, it being 
believed that she was dead, while she was only in a trance. 
Some days afterwards, the grave in which she had been placed 
being opened for the reception of another body, it was found that 
the clothes which covered the unfortunate woman were torn to 
pieces, and that she had even broken her limbs in attempting to 
extricate herself from the living tomb. The Court, after hearing 
the case, sentenced the doctor who had signed the certificate of 
decease, and the mayor who had authorised the interment, each 
to three months' imprisonment for involuntary manslaughter." 

The following remarkable case of waking in the grave 
is reported from Vienna : 

" A lady residing at Derbisch, near Kolin, in Bohemia, where 
she owned considerable property, was buried last week, after a 
brief illness, in the family vault at the local cemetery. Four days 
afterwards her granddaughter was interred in the same place, but 
as the stone slab covering the aperture was removed, the by- 
standers were horrified to see that the lid of the coffin below had 
been raised, and that the arm of the corpse was protruding. It 
was ascertained eventually that the unfortunate lady, who was 
supposed to have died of heart disease, had been buried alive. 
She had evidently recovered consciousness for a few minutes, and 
had found strength enough to burst open her coffin. The authori- 
ties are bent on taking measures of the utmost severity against 
those responsible." Undertakers' Journal, August 22, 1889. 


The Undertakers' and Funeral Directors' Journal, 
July 22, 1890. 

"A horrible story comes from Majola, Mantua. The body of 
a woman, named Lavrinia Merli, a peasant, who was supposed to 
have died from hysterics, was placed in a vault on Thursday, 
July 3. On Saturday evening it was found that the woman had 
regained consciousness, torn her grave-clothes in her struggles, 
had turned completely over in the coffin, and had given birth to a 
seven-months'-old child. Both mother and child were dead when 
the coffin was opened for the last time previous to interment." 

The London Globe, October 26, 1896, mentions the 
following case : 

"A soldier's wife was reported by a military surgeon to have 
died during her confinement. She was buried on his certificate of 
death ; but about two days afterwards the baby to whom she had 
given birth was also reported dead. The mother's coffin was then 
disinterred and opened, with the view of placing the deceased baby 
in it ; but, horrible to relate, it was discovered by only too evident 
signs that the woman had been buried alive, and had recovered 
consciousness after burial." 


The following case, published in the Spectator, October 
19, 1895, is instructive in that the victim was exhumed 
without an order from the Home Secretary, or waiting 
for any formalities, and was restored to life : 

" Sir, Apropos of your article and the correspondence about 
being buried alive, in the Spectator of September 28, the enclosed 
may interest you. It is an extract which I have copied to-day 
out of a letter to a neighbour of mine from his brother in Ireland, 
dated October 6, 1895: 'About three weeks ago, our kitchen- 
maid asked leave to go away for two or three days to see her 
mother, who was dying. She came back again on a Friday or 


Saturday, saying her mother was dead and buried. On Wednesday 
she got a letter saying her mother had been dug up, and was alive 
and getting all right. So she went up to see her, and sure enough 

there she was "right enough," as G says, having got out of 

her trance, and knowing nothing about being in her grave from 
Saturday till Tuesday. The only thing she missed was her rings ; 
she could not make out where they had got to. Her daughter, it 
seems, told the doctor on her way back here that it struck her that 
her mother had never got stiff after death, and she could not help 
thinking it was very odd ; and it made her very uncomfortable. 
He never said a word ; and the kitchen-maid heard nothing until 
she got the letter saying her mother was back again and alive. 
Luckily, she did not "come to" until she had been taken out of 
her coffin. It was a "rum go" altogether. They say exactly the 
same thing happened to a sister of hers who is now alive and 
well.' I am, Sir, etc., 



The Undertakers and Funeral Directors Journal, July 
22, 1889, relates the following cases : 

"A New York undertaker recently tolcl the following story, the 
circumstances of which are still remembered by old residents of 
the city : 'About forty years ago a lady living on Division Street. 
New York City, fell dead, apparently, while in the act of dancing 
at a ball. It was a fashionable affair, and being able to afford it. 
she wore costly jewellery. Her husband, a flour merchant, who 
loved her devotedly, resolved that she should be interred in her 
ball dress, diamonds, pearls, and all ; also that there should be no 
autopsy. As the weather was very inclement when the funeral 
reached the cemetery, the body was placed in the receiving vault 
for burial next day. The undertaker was not a poor man, but he- 
was avaricious, and he made up his mind to possess the jewellery. 
He went in the night, and took the lady's watch from the folds of 
her dress. He next began to draw a diamond ring from her 
finger, and in doing so had to use violence enough to tear the skin. 
Then the lady moved and groaned, and the thief, terrified and 


conscience -stricken, fled from the cemetery, and has never been since 
heard from, that I know of. The lady, after the first emotions of 
horror at her unheard-of position had passed over, gathered her 
nerves together and stepped out of the vault, which the thief had 
left open. How she came home I cannot tell ; but this I know 
she lived and had children, two at least of whom are alive to-day.' 

"Another New York undertaker told this story. The New York 
papers thirty-five years ago were full of its ghastly details. * The 
daughter of a Court Street baker died. It was in winter, and the 
father, knowing that a married sister of his dead child, who lived 
in St. Louis, would like to see her face before being laid in the grave 
for ever, had the body placed in the vault, waiting her arrival. The 
sister came, the vault was opened, the lid of the coffin taken off, 
when, to the unutterable horror of the friends assembled, they 
found the grave-clothes torn in shreds, and the fingers of both 
hands eaten off. The girl had been buried alive.' 

"Until about forty years ago a noted family of Virginia pre- 
served a curious custom, which had been religiously observed for 
more than a century. Over a hundred years ago a member of the 
family died, and, upon being exhumed, was found to have been 
buried alive. From that time until about 1850, every member of 
the family, man, woman, or child, who died, was stabbed in the 
heart with a knife in the hands of the head of the house. The 
reason for the cessation of this custom was that in 1850 or there- 
abouts, a beautiful young girl was supposed to be dead, the knife 
was plunged into her bosom, when she gave vent to a fearful 
scream and died. She had merely been in a trance. The incident 
broke her father's heart, and in a fit of remorse he killed himself 
not long afterwards. 

"There are many families in the United States who, when any 
of their number dies, insist that an artery be opened to determine 
whether life has fled or not." 


While in India, in the early part of the year 1896, 
Dr. Roger S. Chew, of Calcutta, who, having been laid 
out for dead, and narrowly escaped living sepulture, has 

\ ; 


had the best reasons for studying the subject, gave me 
particulars of the following cases : 

" Frank Lascelles, aged thirty-two years, was seated at breakfast 
with a number of us young fellows, and was in the middle of a 
burst of hearty laughter when his head fell forward on his plate 
and he was 'dead.' As there was a distinct history of cardiac dis- 
ease in his family, while he himself had frequently been treated for 
valvular disease of the heart, he was alleged to have 'died'' of car- 
diac failure, and was duly interred in the Coonor Cemetery. Some 
six months later, permission was obtained to remove his remains 
to St. John's Churchyard in Ootacamund. The coffin was ex- 
humed, and, as a ' matter of form,' the lid removed to identify the 
resident, when, to the horror of the lookers-on, it was noticed that, 
though mummification had taken place, there had been a fearful 
struggle underground, for the body, instead of being on its back as 
it was when first coffined, Avas lying on its face, with its arms and 
legs drawn up as close as the confined space would permit. His 
trousers (a perfectly new pair) were burst at the left knee, while his 
shirt-front was torn to ribbons and bloodstained, and the wood of 
that portion of the coffin immediately below his mouth was stained 
a deep reddish-brown-black (blood). Old Dr. Donaldson, whom, 
we were all very fond of, tried to explain matters by saying that the 
jolting of the coffin on its way to the cemetery had overturned the 
body, and that the blood stains on the shirt and wood were the 
natural result of blood flowing (i.e., oozing) out of the mouth of the 
corpse as it lay face do\vnwards. A nice theory, but scarcely a 
probable one, as all the jolting in creation could not possibly turn 
a corpse over in an Indian coffin, which is so built that there is 
scarcely two inches spare space over any portion of the contained 
body, and unless the supposed corpse regained consciousness and 
exerted considerable force, it could not possibly turn round in its 
narrow casket. 

" Mary Norah Best, aged seventeen years, an adopted daughter 
of Mrs. C. A. Moore, nee Chew, 'died' of cholera, and was en- 
tombed in the Chew's vault in the old French cemetery at Calcutta. 
The certifying surgeon was a man who would have benefited by 
her death, and had twice (though ineffectually) attempted to put an 


end to her adopted mother, who fled from India to England after 
the second attempt on her life, but, unfortunately, left the girl 
behind. When Mary 'died 3 she was put into a pine coffin, the 
lid of which was nailed, not screwed, down. In 1881, ten years 
or so later, the vault was unsealed to admit the body of Mrs. 
Moore's brother, J. A. A. Chew. On entering the vault, the under- 
taker's assistant and I found the lid of Mary's coffin on the floor, 
while the position of the skeleton (half in, half out of the coffin, 
and an ugly gash across the right parietal bone) plainly showed 
that after being entombed Mary awoke from the trance, struggled 
violently till she wrenched the lid off her coffin, when she either 
fainted away with the strain of the effort in bursting open her 
casket, and while falling forward over the edge of her coffin struck 
her head against the masonry shelf, and died almost immediately ; 
or, worse still as surmised by some of her clothing which was 
found hanging over the edge of the coffin, and the position of her 
right hand, the fingers of which were bent and close to where 
her throat would have been had the flesh not rotted away she 
recovered consciousness, fought for life, forced her coffin open, and 
sitting up in the pitchy darkness of the vault went mad with 
fright, tore her clothes off, tried to throttle herself, and banged her 
head against the masonry shelf until she fell forward senseless 
and dead." 


The New York Herald (Paris), January 24, 1897, 
says : 

"Dr. Good has not the slightest doubt that premature burial 
may take place on the battle-field, and cited a case which was 
afterwards confirmed by Dr. Halsterd Boyland, who was present at 
'the time, and under whose eyes 'the dead man ' came to life. Dr. 
Good continues : About four o'clock in the afternoon on August 
14, 1870, at the battle of Borny, near Metz, I saw a shell burst over 
the head of a tirailleur posted about thirty yards to the right, and 
in front of me he fell to the ground dead. At midnight, in going 
over the field again to search for any wounded that might have 
been overlooked, I chanced to pass by that same spot, and put my 


lantern to the man's face ; his eyes were open and bloodshot, and 
from the nostrils and mouth had oozed a bloody froth. I turned 
the head to the right and left to see where the shell had struck, but 
not a scratch anywhere, and the body neither rigid nor cold. I 
then ordered the infirmiers to put the man on a stretcher and carry 
him to the little church where my temporary ambulance was estab- 
lished. What was my surprise when Dr. Boyland, who was then 
assistant surgeon-major in the same ambulance, came at four 
o'clock in the morning to tell me that my dead man had come to 
life again and asked a boire? Six weeks later that soldier, Martin, 
was sent back to his regiment fit for service. Here the concussion 
of the brain had caused inhibition of all the functions ; there was 
no heart-beat perceptible nor any sign of respiration, and if the 
sapeurs had come, as they sometimes did in the middle of the 
night instead of early next morning to bury the dead, this poor 
devil would have been thrown alive in the fosse communed 

A correspondent in the Guernsey Star, of December 
1 6, 1902, writes as follows : 

" Some years since a pensioner from the army worked for my 
father. This ex-soldier had served, in the Peninsular wars, 
Crimean, Indian, African. In one sanguinary battle he was badly 
wounded, and picked up and laid on a heap with many others who 
were supposed to be dead. A big trench was prepared, and when 
ready the huge mass of dead bodies was removed into it. But now 
and again a body was found to be still alive. The person of whom 
I write was one of them. His opinion was that the hurried burial 
of soldiers means the suffocating in the earth of many who would 
recover from their wounds and loss of blood if given the chance. 
Doubtless in the late war in Africa many have been buried who 
were simply in a state of trance. ; ' 

Dr. Chew narrated the following circumstance to the 
author : 

"Shortly after the Afghan war of 1878, Surgeon-Major T. Barn- 
well and I were told off to take a large number of time-expired 
men, invalids, and wounded, to Deolali on their way to England. 


Some of the wounded were in a very critical state, necessitating 
great care ; one man in particular, Trooper Holmes, of the loth 
Hussars, who had an ugly bullet-wound running along his left thigh 
and under the groin. Our only means of transport for these poor 
fellows was the ' palki ' or doolie carried by four bearers at a curious 
swinging pace. When we got to Nowshera, Holmes seemed on a 
fair way to recovery, but the swinging of the doolie seemed too 
much for him, and he grew weaker day by day till we got to 
Hassan Abdool, when we could not rouse him to take some 
nourishment before starting on the march, and to all appearance 
he seemed perfectly dead ; but as there was neither the time nor 
convenience to hold a post-mortem, we carried the body on to 
*John Nicholson,' where, the same difficulties being in the way, 
and no facilities for burial, we were obliged to put the post-mortem 
off for another day, and convey the corpse to Rawal Pindi rest 
camp, where we laid him on the floor of the mortuary tent and 
covered him over with a tarpaulin. This was his salvation, as 
next morning (i.e., the third day succeeding his 'death'), when we 
raised the tarpaulin to hold the post-mortem, some hundreds of 
field mice (these tracts are noted for them) rushed out, and we 
noticed that Holmes was breathing, though very slowly five or 
six respirations to the minute and there were a few teeth marks 
where the mice had attacked his calves. To prevent a relapse by 
the jolting on further marches, we handed him over to the station 
hospital staff, who pulled him round, and then forwarded him to 
the headquarters of his regiment at Meerut." 



ALMOST every intelligent and observant person with 
whom you converse, if the subject be introduced, has either 
known or heard of narrow escapes from premature burial 
within his or her own circle of friends or acquaintances ; 
and it is no exaggeration to say that such cases are 
numbered by thousands. It is to be hoped that the 
number of timely discoveries vastly exceed those actually 
interred in a state of suspended animation ; but as no 
investigation of graveyards or cemeteries (which effec- 
tually conceal their own tragedies) has ever taken place 
in England until the remains are reduced to dust, and 
rarely in other countries, one cannot be sure that this 
optimistic view is correct. 

An apparent suspension of life, following a serious 
illness, is usually considered a satisfactory proof of the 
reality of the expected death ; but these conditions can- 
not always be relied upon, as the following illustration 
proves : 


I had been attending for some time (about seven 
years ago) a child aged three years, who had suffered 
primarily from convulsions, followed by vomiting and 
diarrhoea, with subsequent exhaustion and emaciation. 


There seemed no hope of recovery, and I left my little 
patient one night fully believing I had seen him for the 
last time alive. I was late on my country rounds next 
day, and when I arrived at the cottage I noticed the 
blinds were drawn, and, upon entering, my eyes at once 
fell upon a couch pushed into a corner of the room, and 
covered by a white sheet, whilst the broken-hearted 
parents were weeping by the settle. I sat down and 
tried to comfort them, and finally left directions as to 
the hour when they might send for the death certificate. 
Before leaving I walked toward the couch, and drew 
back the covering from the pale waxen face. The jaw 
was fastened by a band in the usual way, coppers had 
been placed over the eyelids, and all was in readiness 
for the shell, which the undertaker was expected to 
bring in a few minutes. As I stood looking intently at 
the child I fancied I detected the slightest movement of 
the chest. It could but be imagination, I thought ; 
nevertheless, instinctively I felt for the wrist, but failed 
to detect a pulse. Still, I watched there again was 
that tremor ! I applied my stethoscope to the region of 
the heart without response, but, feeling dissatisfied, I 
undid the nightdress, and applied the instrument to the 
bare skin. I could hardly believe my ears there was 
undoubtedly a beat ! I shall never forget the shriek 
which the mother gave when I said, " Mrs. W , your 
child is not dead ! " I at once applied hot flannels to 
the feet, and gently massaged the body for two or three 
hours, and had the satisfaction before I left long after 
the undertaker had come and gone of seeing the child 
taking nourishment in its mother's arms. He is now a 
fine, strong, healthy lad. He might have been otherwise. 



This danger is further illustrated by an incident which 
was related at a meeting of the London Association for 
the Prevention of Premature Burial, January 28, 1903 : 

"A lady, living at Holland Road, Kensington, testified that on 
hearing the news of the loss of her property, she went into violent 
hysterics for two hours, and then was thought to have died. After 
being left for twenty-four hours, she was taken out of her bed, 
rolled on the floor, and needles and pins were stuck in her. Next 
morning one of the servants, on looking at her body on the bed, 
thought it moved. The doctor was sent for again, but he certified 
that she was undoubtedly dead, and so the coffin was ordered. 
Three hours afterwards her daughter said : ' I don't think mother 
is dead,' and applied some brandy to the cold lips. 'Then I came to, 5 
said the lady, who added, 'That was five years ago I Jiave my death 
certificate at home !!! Although I could not move, I could hear 
everything. I heard the men take my measurement for the coffin.' ; ' 

" That," said Mr. Arthur Lovell (the hon. sec.) " was a 
state of trance with which I am rather familiar. What 
we want are State-appointed certifiers to examine all 
cases of supposed decease." 

"Another lady in the meeting certified that she knew a girl at 
Kensington who "came to' after being pronounced dead, and who 
remembers hearing the doctor say 'Ah, poor thing, now she is 
out of her suffering.'" 

The Daily Express, of March 20, 1903, and the Daily 
Mail, of the 9th, give details of the supposed death of a 
well-known lady, who, with her family, had long resided 
in the village of Woore, near Keele, North Staffordshire, 
and who, after having been certified as dead by the 
local physician, was laid ready for interment : 

"All preparations for the funeral had been made, and friends 
and relatives assembled to take a final farewell. As the mourners 


watched, the eyes of the lady were seen to open and her lips to 
move. Life had returned to the supposed corpse. The news of 
the strange event spread throughout the village and district, and 
produced the greatest excitement." 

The Daily Express, of January 20, 1902, contains the 
following : 

" Fran Alexandre Szabo, of Debreczin, Hungary, was certified 
dead by two doctors. She was placed in a coffin and the lid 
screwed down. As the coffin was being taken from the house the 
bearers heard a noise within it. It was opened, and the woman 
was found to be alive." 

The Undertakers Journal, July 22, 1893, says : 

" Charles Walker was supposed to have died suddenly at St. 
Louis a few days ago, and a burial certificate was obtained in due 
course from the coroner's office. The body was lying in the coffin, 
and the relatives took a farewell look at the features, and withdrew 
as the undertaker's assistants advanced to screw down the lid. One 
of the undertaker's men noticed, however, that the position of the 
body in the coffin seemed to have undergone some slight change, 
and called attention to the fact. Suddenly, without any warning, 
the 'corpse' sat up in the coffin and gazed round the room. A 
physician was summoned, restoratives were applied, and in half an 
hour the supposed corpse was in a warm bed, sipping weak brandy 
and water, and taking a lively interest in the surroundings. Heart- 
failure had produced a species of syncope resembling death that 
deceived even experts." 

The Banner of LigJit, Boston, July 28, 1894, quotes 
the following case of apparent sudden death medically 
certified : 

" Sprakers, a village not far from Rondout, N.Y., was treated to 
a sensation Tuesday, July 10, by the supposed resurrection from 
the dead of Miss Eleanor Markham, a young woman of respect- 
ability, who to all appearance had died on Sunday, July 8. 


" Miss Markham about a fortnight ago complained of heart 
trouble, and was treated by Dr. Howard. She grew weaker 
gradually, and on Sunday morning apparently breathed her last, 
to the great grief of her relatives, by whom she was much beloved. 
The doctor pronounced her dead, and furnished the usual burial 

"Undertaker Jones took charge of the funeral arrangements. 
On account of the warm weather it was decided that the interment 
should take place Tuesday, and in the morning Miss Markham 
was put in the coffin. 

"After her relatives had taken the last look on what they sup- 
posed was their beloved dead, the lid of the coffin was fastened on, 
and the undertaker and his assistant took it to the hearse waiting 
outside. As they approached the hearse a noise was heard, and 
the coffin was put down and opened in short order. Behold ! there 
was poor Eleanor Markham lying on her back, her face white and 
contorted, and her eyes distended. 

" ' My God ! ; she cried, in broken accents. ' Where am I ? You 
are burying me alive.' ' Hush ! child,' said Dr. Howard, who 
happened to be present. ' You are all right. It is a mistake easily 

"The girl was then taken into the house and placed on the bed, 
when she fainted. While the doctor was administering stimulating 
restoratives the trappings of woe were removed, and the hearse 
drove away with more cheerful rapidity than a hearse was ever 
driven before. 

" 1 1 was conscious all the time you were making preparations to 
bury me,' she said, 'and the horror of my situation is altogether 
beyond description. I could hear everything that was going on, 
even a whisper outside the door, and although I exerted all my 
will-power, and made a supreme physical effort to cry out, I was 
powerless. ... At first I fancied the bearers would not hear 
me, but when I felt one end of the coffin falling suddenly, I knew 
that I had been heard.' 

" Miss Markham is on a fair way to recovery, and what is 
strange is that the flutterings of the heart that brought on her 
illness are gone." 



In a letter received from Mrs. H. E. Wright, of 
2 Bedford Road, Ilford, Essex, under date May 31, 1897, 
she says : " A friend of mine was supposed to die of 
cholera at Boulogne some years ago. She heard all the 
preparations being made for her funeral, when fortunately, 
by a desperate exertion, she managed to give signs of 
life. I know of another somewhat similar case ; but the 
most extraordinary case I ever heard of was one related 
by an aged relative, which happened in a ladies' boarding- 
school at Edinburgh, in which she was pupil. This must 
have been between eighty and ninety years ago. A 
young girl from the West Indies was confided in an 
especial manner to the care of the lady principal. One 
day the girl died, after having been indisposed for a few 
days. The best doctors in Edinburgh one of the chief 
medical schools in the world pronounced the girl dead, 
and wanted to have her buried, but the principal declared 
that nothing on earth would induce her to have the child 
buried until unmistakable signs of corruption showed 
themselves ; but days passed and no signs to satisfy the 
good lady appeared, who meanwhile kept applying hot 
bread to the soles of the feet. At last, after ten days or 
so, even the eminent doctors began to be staggered. At 
the end of thirteen days, when the principal went to her 
room with hot bread, she found the girl sitting up in bed, 
rubbing her eyes in a somewhat bewildered manner, and 
expressing a desire to get up and set about her lessons. 
It is quite possible that had she not come from such a 
distance her own relations might have been called in, 
and the poor child buried ; but in days when there were 


no steamers, and a voyage to the West Indies might 
mean two or three months, the schoolmistress felt all 
the agony of letting the parents know that their daughter 
had been dead many weeks before the information came 
to them. So she acted with the determination of despair, 
and acted wisely and well." 


The Undertakers' and Funeral Directors Journal of 
May, 1888, narrates an interesting and apparently 
trustworthy story : 

"Mrs. Lockhart, of Birkhill, who died in 1825, used to relate to 
her grandchildren the following anecdote of her ancestor, Sir 
William Lindsay, of Covington, towards the close of the seventeenth 
century : ' Sir William was a humorist, and noted, moreover, 
for preserving the picturesque appendage of a beard at a period 
when the fashion had long passed away. He had been extremely- 
ill, and life was at last supposed to be extinct, though, as it 
afterwards turned out, he was merely in a " dead faint " or trance. 
The female relatives were assembled for the " chesting ;; the 
act of putting a corpse into a coffin, with the entertainment given 
on such melancholy occasions in a lighted chamber in the old 
tower of Covington, where the "bearded knight" lay stretched 
upon his bier. But when the servants were about to enter to 
assist at the ceremonies, Isabella Somerville, Sir William's great- 
granddaughter, and Mrs. Lockhart's grandmother, then a child, 
creeping close to her mother, whispered into her ear, " The beard 
is wagging ! the beard is wagging ! " Mrs. Somerville, upon this, 
looked to the bier, and, observing indications of life in the ancient 
knight, made the company retire, and Sir William soon came out 
of his faint. Hot bottles were applied and cordials administered, 
and in the course of the evening he was able to converse with his 
family. They explained that they had believed him to be actually 
dead, and that arrangements had even been made for his funeral. 
In answer to the question, "Have the folks been warned?" (i.e., 


invited to the funeral) he was told that they had that the funeral 
day had been fixed, an ox slain, and other preparations made for 
entertaining the company. Sir William then said, " All is as it 
should be ; keep it a dead secret that I am in life, and let the 
folks come." His wishes were complied with, and the company 
assembled for the burial at the appointed time. After some delay, 
occasioned by the non-arrival of the clergyman, as was supposed, 
and which afforded an opportunity of discussing the merits of the 
deceased, the door suddenly opened, when, to their surprise and 
terror, in stepped the knight himself, pale in countenance and 
dressed in black, leaning on the arm of the minister of the parish 
of Covington. Having quieted their alarm and explained matters, 
he called upon the clergyman to conduct an act of devotion, which 
included thanksgiving for his recovery and escape from being 
buried alive. This done, the dinner succeeded. A jolly evening, 
after the manner of the time, was passed, Sir William himself 
presiding over the carousals.' " 


The Lancet, November 27, 1858, p. 561, cites a re- 
markable case which was afterwards corroborated in all 
its details by the surgeon who attended the patient, Mr. 
R. B. Mason, M.R.C.S., of Nuneaton. 

" The girl, whose name is Amelia Hinks, is twelve or 
thirteen years of age, and resides with her parents in 
Bridge Street, Nuneaton. She had lately appeared to 
be sinking under the influence of some ill-explained 
disorder, and about three weeks since, as her friends 
imagined, she died. The body was removed to another 
room. It was rigid and icy cold. It was washed and 
laid out with all due funereal train. The limbs were 
decently placed, the eyelids closed and penny-pieces 
laid over them. The coffin was ordered. For more 


than forty-eight hours the supposed corpse lay beneath 
the winding-sheet, when it happened that her grand- 
father, coming from Leamington to assist in the last 
mournful ceremonies, went to see the corpse. The old 
man removed a penny-piece, and he thought that the 
corpse winked ! There was a convulsive movement of 
the lid. This greatly disturbed his composure ; for, 
though he had heard that she died with her eyes open, 
he was unprepared for this palpebral signal of her good 
understanding with death. A surgeon is said to have 
been summoned, who at first treated the matter as a 
delusion, but subsequently ascertained stethoscopically 
that there was still slight cardiac pulsation. The body 
was then removed to a warm room, and gradually the 
returning signs of animation became unequivocal. When 
speech was restored, the girl described many things 
which had taken place since her supposed death. She 
knew who had closed her eyes and placed the coppers 
thereon. She also heard the order given for her coffin, 
and could repeat the various remarks made over her as 
she lay in her death-clothes. She refused food, though 
in a state of extreme debility. She has since shown 
symptoms of mania, and is now said to have relapsed 
into a semi-cataleptic condition." 

The Lancet, March 5, 1859, p. 254, writes further: 

" Another case of trance is reported, in addition to 
those which we have lately recorded. A widow named 
Aufray, about sixty years of age, of St. Agnan de 
^enuieres (Eure), long seriously ill, became suddenly 
vvorse, grew cold and motionless, and, as it was thought, 


dead. She was laid out, the coffin ordered, and the 
church bell tolled. She recovered consciousness just 
before the funeral was to take place." 


Hufeland (one of the greatest authorities on the subject 
in Germany), in his essay upon the uncertainty of the 
signs of death, tells of a case of the wife of Professor 
Camerer, of Tubingen, who was hysterical, and had a 
fright in the sixth month of her pregnancy, that brought 
on convulsions (eclampsia), which continued for four 
hours, when she seemed to die completely. Two cele- 
brated physicians, besides three others of less note, re- 
garded the case as ended in death, as all the recognised 
signs of death were present. However, attempts to 
revive her were at once resorted to, and were continued 
for five hours, when all the medical attendants, except 
one, gave the case up, and left. The physician who 
remained pulled off a blister-plaster that had been put 
on one of the feet, when the lady gave feeble signs of life 
by twitchings about the mouth. The doctor then re- 
newed his efforts to revive her, by various stimulating 
means, and by burning, and by pricking the spine ; but 
all in vain, for after her slight evidences of revival, she 
seemed to die unmistakably. She lay in a state of 
apparent death for six days, but there was a small space 
over the heart where a little warmth could be detected 
by the hand, and on this account the burial was put off. 
On the seventh day she opened her eyes, and slowly 
revived, but was completely unconscious of all that had 
happened. She then gave birth to a dead child, and 
soon thereafter recovered her health completely. 



Dr. Frederick A. Floyer, of Mortimer, Berks, published 
the following case in the Tocsin, November i, 1889, 
vol. i., p. 84, under the head of " Premature Burial " : 

" A narrow escape of this was recently communicated 
direct to the writer, and as it has some extremely im- 
portant bearings on the value of what are usually 
considered to be evidences of death, we give it as 
told by the survivor, who is still alive in the form of 
a cheery and intelligent old lady in the fullest possession 
of her faculties and memory. 

" Herself the wife of a medical officer attached to 

the th Regiment, she was stationed at Island, 

where at the age of twenty-eight she was safely confined. 
Shortly after this she was walking out with an attendant 
when she was taken suddenly ill with a painful spasm 
of the heart what appears to have been an attack 
of angina pectoris and was conveyed indoors and 
propped up with pillows, suffering great pain, and 
although medical attendance was summoned, nothing 
was of avail, and she died at least in the opinion of 
those around her, who paid the proper attention to 
what they regarded as a corpse. It was the custom 
there to bury at sundown anyone who died during 
the day, We understand that in warm countries it is 
difficult to close the eyelids properly, and so this lady, 
lying motionless and rigid, contemplated with perfectly 
clear perception, but with an utter indifference, the bring- 
ing in of the coffin and the necessary preparations for her 
interment ; she remembers her children coming to take 
a last look at her, and then being taken down stairs. 


" She would never have lived to tell the story but for 
an accident, which happened in this way. Her nurse, 
who was much attached to her, was stroking her face 
and the muscles of her jaw, and presently declared she 
heard a sound of breathing. Medical assistance was 
summoned, and the mirror test applied, but the surface 
was undimmed. Then, to make sure, they opened a 
vein in each arm, but no blood flowed. No limb 
responded to stimulus, and they declared that the nurse 
was mistaken, and that the body was dead beyond 

" But the nurse persisted in her belief and in her 
attentions, and did succeed in establishing a sign of life. 
Then mustard applications to her feet and to the back 
of her neck, and burnt feathers applied to her nostrils, 
which she remembered burning her nose, completed her 
return to consciousness." 


The Medical Times, London, 1866, vol. i., p. 258, under 
the heading " Buried Alive," remarks as follows : " The 
abundance of other topics hinders us at present from 
saying more than a few words on the conditions under 
which there may be real danger of burial before life is 
quite extinct Now, we will only reproduce the cases 
reported by Cardinal Archbishop Donnet, in the French 
Senate, in a discussion on a petition that the time 
between death and burial should be lengthened. We 
will add one instance, which we have heard on the best 
authority : About thirty years ago, a young woman 
of eighteen, daughter of Madame Laligand, living in 
the Rue des Tonnelliers, at Beaune, in Burgundy, was 


supposed to have died. The ordinary measures were 
taken for interment. The body was put in a coffin, and 
taken to the church; the funeral service was said, and the 
cortege set out for the cemetery ; but on the road 
between the church and the cemetery the supposed dead 
recovered power of motion and speech, was removed 
from the coffin, put to bed, recovered, married, and lived 
eighteen years afterwards. She said she retained her 
consciousness during the whole of her supposed death, 
and had counted the nails that were driven into her 
coffin. Statements such as these, and such as those 
made by the Archbishop, will surely be subjected to the 
ordeal of a French scientific commission, and w r e may 
suspend our judgment for the present. To return to his 
Eminence. He said he had the very best reasons for 
believing that the victims of hasty interments were more 
numerous than people supposed. He considered the 
rules and regulations prescribed by the law very 
judicious ; but, unfortunately, they were, particularly in 
the country, not always executed as they should be, nor 
was sufficient importance attached to them. In the 
village he was stationed in as an assistant-curate in the 
first period of his sacerdotal life, he saved two persons 
from being buried alive. The first an aged man, who 
lived twelve hours after the hour prescribed for his 
interment by the municipal officer; the second was a man 
who was quite restored to life. In both cases a trance 
more prolonged than usual was taken for actual death." 


" The other instances," says the Medical Times cor- 
respondent, " I give in the words of the Archbishop : 


"'The next case that occurred to me was at Bordeaux. A 
young lady, who bore one of the most distinguished names in 
the Department, had passed through what was supposed the last 
agony, and, as apparently all was over, the father and mother 
were torn away from the heartrending spectacle. As God willed 
it, I happened to pass the door of the house at the moment, 
when it occurred to me to call and inquire how the young lady 
was going on. When I entered the room, the nurse, finding the 
body breathless, was in the act of covering the face, and, indeed, 
there was every appearance that life had departed. Somehow or 
other, it did not seem to me so certain as to the bystanders. I 
resolved to try. I raised my voice, called loudly upon the young 
lady not to give up all hope that I was come to cure her, and 
that I was about to pray by her side. "You do not see me," I 
said, "but you hear what I am saying." My presentiments were 
not unfounded. The word of hope I uttered reached her ear and 
effected a marvellous change, or, rather, called back the life that 
was departing. The young girl survived ; she is now a wife, and 
mother of children, and this day is the happiness of two most 
respectable families.' 

" The Archbishop mentioned another instance of a 
similar revival in a town in Hungary during the cholera 
of 1831, which he heard that day from one of his 
colleagues of the Senate, as they were mounting the 


The last incident related by the Archbishop is so 
interesting, and made such a sensation, that it deserves 
to be repeated in his own words : 

"'In the summer of 1826, on a close summer day, in a church 
which was exceedingly crowded, a young priest, who was in the act 
of preaching, was suddenly seized with giddiness in the pulpit. 
The words he was uttering became indistinct ; he soon lost the 
power of speech, and sank down on the floor. He was taken out 
of the church and carried home. All was thought to be over. 


Some hours after, the funeral bell was tolled, and the usual 
preparations made for the interment. His eyesight was gone ; but 
if he could see nothing, like the young lady I have alluded to, he 
could hear, and I need not say that what reached his ears was not 
calculated to reassure him. The doctor came, examined him, 
and pronounced him dead ; and after the usual inquiries as to 
his age and the place of his birth, etc., gave permission for his 
interment next morning. The venerable bishop, in whose cathedral 
the young priest was preaching when he was seized with the fit, 
came to his bedside to recite the " De Profundis." The body was 
measured for the coffin. Night came on, and you will easily feel 
how inexpressible was the anguish of the human being in such a 
situation. At last, amid the voices murmuring around him, he 
distinguished that of one whom he had known from infancy. That 
voice produced a marvellous effect and superhuman effort. Of 
what followed I need say no more than that the seemingly dead 
man stood next day in the same pulpit. That young priest, 
gentlemen, is the same man who is now speaking before you, and 
who, more than forty years after that event, implores those in 
authority, not merely to watch vigilantly over the careful execution 
of the legal prescriptions with regard to interments, but to enact 
fresh ones in order to prevent the recurrence of irreparable 
misfortunes.' " 


To this report of the Medical* Times, it may be added 
that the petition of M. de Carnot furnished statistics 
showing the frequency of these terrible disasters, and 
suggested various preventive measures, including the 
establishment of mortuaries, a longer interval between 
death and burial, and the application of scientific 
methods of restoration where decomposition is not 
manifest. The reality of the terrible clangers, as pointed 
out by Cardinal Donnet, was confirmed by Senators 
Tourangin and Viscount de Baral, in the recital of other 
cases of premature interment. 


When the subject was revived in the Senate on 
January 29, 1869 on which occasion five petitions were 
presented, urging important reforms, and detailing other 
cases of premature interment Cardinal Donnet again 
took part in the debate, and urged that no burial should 
be permitted without the signature of a doctor or officer 
of health, as well as the written authorisation of the 
Mayor, so that the fact of death might always be verified. 
The Cardinal then furnished particulars of another recent 
case of premature interment in 1'Est, and recalled the 
fact that one of their honourable colleagues of the 
Senate, M. le Comte de la Rue, had had a narrow 
escape from live sepulture. 

The several petitions were forwarded to the Minister 
of the Interior, but nothing was done to remedy the evil. 


''Dr. Brewer," says the Lancet, of June 2, 1866, p. 
6ii,"in the course of the address delivered to the 
Guardians of St. George's at St. James's Hall, adverted 
to the 'laying-out' case at St. Pancras, and dwelt upon 
the question of suspended animation in a passage which 
really deserves to be quoted." 

" I have been more than once under a condition of apparently 
suspended respiration, and with circumstances less comfortable 
than those related of this babe ; and yet, active as is my brain, 
and sensitive as is my body, I remember as well as though it were 
but yesterday that, on being restored to consciousness, no feeling 
of discomfort of any kind attended my experience on either occasion. 
It is under the truth to say I have known a score of cases of those 
who have been supposed dead being reanimated. It is not many 
months ago a friend of mine, a rector of a suburban parish, was 
pronounced by his medical attendant to be dead. His bed was 


arranged, and the room left in its silence. His daughter had 
re-entered and sat at the foot, and the solemn toll of his own 
church bell was vibrating through the chamber, when a hand drew 
aside the closed curtain, and a voice came from the occupant of 
the bed 'Elizabeth, my dear, what is that bell tolling for?' 
The daughters response was, perhaps, an unfortunate one : ' For 
you, Papa.' r ' 

Dr. 13. \V. Richardson quotes a case in the Lancet, 
1888, vol. ii., p. 1179, of a man who, in 1869, was 
rendered cataleptic by a lightning - stroke, and who 
narrowly escaped living burial. 

Dr. Franz Hartmann, in "Premature Burial," pp. 14-17, 
cites a remarkable case of an Englishman who " died " 


of typhoid fever and was buried, but four days after was 
exhumed and placed on the cold slab of the dissecting 
room ; when an incision was made in the breast, the 
(i dead man " suddenly awoke, and grasped the wrist of 
the anatomist. The Englishman subsequently published 
in Blackivood's Magazine an account of his terrible 

Dr. H. S. Tanner, in a letter in the New York Times, 
January 18, 1880, mentions two cases where persons 
awakened from trance at the moment of sepulture 
described in turn what their feelings had been. Said 
one : 

" Have you ever felt the paralysing influence of a horrible 
nightmare? If you have had such experience, then you are 
prepared to conceive of the mental agonies I endured when 
I realised that my friends believed me dead, and were making 
preparations for my burial. The hours and days of mental 
struggle spent in the vain endeavour to break loose from the 
vice-like grasp of this worse than horrible nightmare was a hell 
of torment such as no tongue can describe or pen portray." 


Dr. Johnson, of St. Charles, Illinois, is the other 
instance mentioned by Dr. Tanner, who in his hearing, 
and in the presence of a large audience in Harrison's 
Hall, Minneapolis, stated that when a young man he 
was prostrated with a fever. He swooned away, 
apparently dead. His attending physician said he was 
dead. His father was faithless and unbelieving, and 
refused to bury him. He lay in this condition, appar- 
ently dead, fourteen days. The attending physician 
brought other physicians to examine the apparently 
lifeless form, and all stated unqualifiedly, " He is dead." 
Some fourteen physicians, among them many eminent 
professors, examined the body, and there was no 
ambiguity in the expression of their conclusion that 
the boy was dead. But the father still turned a cleaf 
ear to all entreaties to prepare the body for the grave. 
Public feeling was at last aroused. The health officer 
and other city officers, acting in their official capacity, 
and by the advice of physicians, peremptorily demanded 
that the body be interred without delay. On the 
fourteenth day the father yielded under protest ; pre- 
parations were made for the funeral, when the emotions 
of the still living subject, who was conscious of all 
transpiring around him, were so intense as to be the 
means of his deliverance. He awoke from his trance. 

Dr. O'Neill, of Lincoln, writes to the Lancet, June /, 
1884, p. 1058 : 

" Without venturing to express an opinion on the case 
mentioned by the Rev. D. Williams 1 in the Lancet of 
the 24th inst, I would beg to say that I have no doubt 

J The case referred to, being attended with doubt, is omitted. 


in my own mind but that people are sometimes ' buried 
alive.' An instance has come to my knowledge where 
this catastrophe was only avoided by a mere accident. 
A lady, about forty-five years of age, the wife of a 
clergyman in a northern county, w r as taken ill, and after 
some time, as was supposed, died. The funeral was 
delayed, and so was the closing of the coffin, in con- 
sequence of the absence of a son of the lady from home. 
When the boy arrived, the kissing, wailing, and com- 
motion roused the supposed dead woman, and brought 
her to consciousness in her coffin. This lady would 
most probably have been buried alive were it not that 
the obsequies were delayed on account of the circum- 
stance mentioned. 

" Now, may not cases more or less similar to this 
sometimes occur, with the catastrophe of ' buried alive ' 
added to them? But no such case could happen if it 
were made compulsory that the interment of a body 
should not be allowed to take place until after de- 
composition had set in, as attested by a medical man." 

Dr. Moore Russell Fletcher in " Suspended Animation 
and the Danger of Burying Alive," p. 62, writes : 

'' ' Seven hours in a coffin added ten years to my life/ 
was the remark of Martin Strong, of Twelfth Street, 
Philadelphia, some time after quitting the coffin in 
which his family had placed him for burial, after Dr. 
Cummings had given a certificate of his death. Frank 
Stoop, of Clarinda, Iowa, was laid out for burial not 
long since, a physician having certified to his death ; 
but fortunately he awoke from his state of coma in time 
to save his life." 


On p. 26, Dr. Fletcher cites another remarkable case: 

"In June, 1869, a girl in Cleveland, Ohio, was taken ill, and 
after a short sickness died, and was laid out for burial ; but as 
her mother insisted that she was not dead, efforts were made for 
some time to restore her to life, but in vain. Her mother, how- 
ever, refused to let her be buried ; and on the fifth day after that 
set for the funeral the slamming of a door aroused her, so that 
she recovered. She stated that, during most of the eight days 
which she lay there, she was conscious, and heard what was said, 
although wholly unable to make the least motion." 

Dr. Colin S. Valentine, LL.D., Principal of the Medical 
Missionary Training College, Agra, N.W.P., told the 
author during his visit to Agra, February, 1896, that 
Captain Young, an officer in the regiment of which he 
(Dr. Valentine) was at that time army surgeon, who had 
been dreadfully mauled while tiger-hunting in Madras, 
was laid out for dead, and all the arrangements were made 
for his funeral at six o'clock that evening, when con- 
sciousness returned, and he lived for twenty years after. 

Dr. A. Stephenson, in a lecture on the "Signs of Death 
and Disposal of the Dead," delivered at Nottingham, 
January 9, 1896, said he once attended a girl living in 
that locality who was in a trance. All the preparations 
were made for her funeral, and the grave ordered. She 
remained in a trance three days, and her mother was 
annoyed because he would not sign her death-certificate. 
On the third day she slowly rose and recovered. The 
girl would have been buried unless he had had a very 
great fear of her being buried alive. 

Medical literature contains reports of numerous 
instances of collapse and apparent death in times of 


epidemics, such as plague, cholera, and small-pox. The 
danger is increased by the anxiety and necessity for 
speed}" interment, owing to the usually overcrowded 
condition of hospitals and mortuaries and the fear of the 
spread of infection. Premature burial becomes a real 
danger, and the cases of narrow escape during these 
periods of panic are innumerable. 

A solicitor, living in Gloucester, recently informed the 
editor that, when first in practice, he had as caretaker 
of his offices an old woman who, with her husband, had 
been in charge of the cholera wards, erected just outside 
the city, at the time of the severe epidemic of 1849, when, 
in Gloucester alone, there were 119 fatal cases. She 
told him that as soon as the patients were dead they 
put them in shells and screwed them down, so as to get 
them out of the way as quickly as possible, as the small 
sheds (which are still standing) were so crowded. "Some- 
times," she callously remarked, "they come to afterwards, 
and we did hear 'em kicking in their coffins, but we 
never unscrewed 'em, 'cause we knew they'd got to die ! " 


Dr. Chew communicated the two following cases to 
the author during his sojourn in Calcutta in the early part 
of 1896: 

" In March, 1877, Assistant-Surgeons H. A. Borthwick, 
S. Blake, H. B. Rogers, and myself received orders to 
proceed from Rawal Pindi by bullock-train to Peshawur 
to join the various regiments we were to be posted to 
for duty, We had just passed a place called Rati when 
Borthwick showed strong symptoms of cholera, from 


which he suffered all that night. The nearest hospital 
was twenty-five miles behind us, and though we had 
neither medicines nor sick-room comforts with us, we 
had no alternative but to journey onwards, because the 
train-drivers (Indians) refused to turn back, and if we 
did return to Rawal Pindi we would have been court- 
martialled for disobeying lawful commands and coming 
back without orders to do so. Travelling by bullock- 
train is very slow work, and far from a comfortable 
mode of transit ; however, we were obliged to make the 
best of it, and early next morning Borthwick was cold, 
stiff, and seemingly dead. Here was a fine state of affairs 
the nearest cantonment, which we had no expectation 
of reaching (i.e., Nowshera) before nine p.m., was thirty- 
six miles off, and by the time we arrived at it, it would 
have been too late to approach the authorities, while 
Peshawur, our destination, was another twenty-nine miles 
further off. Dispose of the body we dare not, and we 
had no choice but to continue our route. All that day 
there was not a movement or other sign to show that life 
was not extinct, and affairs seemed no better by five p.m. 
next day, when we reached Peshawur. The apparent 
corpse was lifted out of the bullock-train and carried 
into the hospital dispensary (where a strong fire was 
blazing) preparatory to papers being signed and arrange- 
ments made for its final disposal. Whether it was the 
heat of the fire before which he was placed, or whether 
the vibriones had produced an antitoxin, I am not pre- 
pared to argue ; but we do know that Borthwick recovered 
consciousness while lying on the bed in that dispensary, 
and that he whom we mourned as dead returned to life. 
He served in the same military stations with me in the 


North- West Frontier till 1880, when he accompanied 
me to the Calcutta Medical College, where we parted 
company in February, 1882, I bound for Egypt and he 
for frontier duty. At first we corresponded regularly, 
but since 1885 we have lost touch of each other." 

" When the East Norfolk regiment was out cholera- 
dodging in 1878, Colour-Sergeant T. Hall and Corporal 
\V. Bellomy were sent into cantonments for burial as 
cholera corpses in the Nowshera Cemetery. There was 
some delay in the interment owing to a difficulty in 
obtaining the wood necessary for their coffins, so both 
bodies were placed in the dead-house, which was gener- 
ously sprinkled with disinfectants to ward off the risk 
of contagion. First Hall and then Bellomy regained 
consciousness, and were duly returned to duty. The 
following year Bellomy was ' invalided ' to England, 
where I understand he now enjoys the best of health." 

The Undertakers' Journal^ May 22, 1895, has the 
following : 

" The Reverend Harry Jones, in his reminiscences, and as a 
London clergyman, declares his conviction that in times of panic 
from fatal epidemics it is not unlikely that some people are buried 
alive. Mr. Jones recalls a case within his knowledge of a young 
woman pronounced to be dead from cholera, and actually laid out 
for the usual collecting cart to call from the undertakers, when a 
neighbour happened to come in and lament over her. The story 
continues thus: 'And is poor Sarah really dead?' she cried. 
'Well,' said her mother, 'she is, and she will soon be fetched away ; 
but if you can do anything you may do it.' Acting on this per- 
mission, the practical neighbour set about rubbing Sarah profusely 
with mustard. Sarah sat up, stung into renovated life, and so far 
recovered as to marry; 'and I myself,' says Mr. Jones, 'christened 
four or five of her children in the course of the next few years.' " 



I remember an incident under this head I was able to 
verify, which caused some sensation at the time, occur- 
ring during the Gloucester small-pox epidemic, in the 
early part of 1896. A child, believed to be dead of con- 
fluent small-pox, was removed from one of the small- 
pox hospital wards to the mortuary, and next day an 
attendant passing by heard a child crying, and gave 
warning to one of the nurses. The little one was 
promptly carried back to the ward, and recovered. 

The Lancet of June 21, 1884, p. 1150, publishes the 
following particulars from a London clergyman : 

" I send you privately names and addresses, by means of which 
you can test, if you please, the accuracy of the following statements, 
which I forward for insertion in your journal : 

"Some years since, a young man who had been attacked by 
small-pox was declared by the medical man to be dead, and was 
laid out for burial. The nurse, however, on paying a visit to the 
supposed corpse, thinking there was something uncorpse-like about 
its appearance, put a wine-glass over the mouth, and returning in a 
quarter of an hour found it dimmed with breath. He was resusci- 
tated, and, so far as I am aware, is still living. He would now be 
about forty-five. He is a farmer. 

"A mother and her baby were ill of small-pox, and seemed 
likely to die. The grandmother, however, made the nurse promise 
that if death appeared to ensue, and even if the medical man 
pronounced either or both to be dead, she would put additional 
blankets on the one or both, and leave them so till her (the grand- 
mother's) return, which would not be till the next day. They both 
appeared to die, and were declared dead by the doctor ; but the 
nurse did as she had promised, and the next day, when the grand- 
mother returned, they were both alive, and were both living not 
very long since. 


"Some twenty years ago, I was told that about forty years 
previously a young man, in a parish where I was acquainted, was 
put in a coffin as a person dead of small-pox ; but when the bell 
was tolling for his funeral, and he was about to be 'screwed down,' 
he got up and vacated the coffin, and lived several years after- 

"The haste with which small-pox corpses are disposed of now-a- 
days is to be deprecated. The only sure proof of death is decom- 
position, and a law ought to be passed forbidding burial until signs 
of it have appeared. Not very long since I was in a churchyard 
where a drain was being made round the church, and was not a 
little struck with the horrified look of a labourer who came to the 
vicar and stated that they had come on a skull face downward, 
which, he said, put it beyond doubt that the person it had belonged 
to had turned in his coffin after burial." 


The Lancet for July 23, 1888, cites the following 
remarkable case : 

" The following details are given by the Cincinnati correspondent 
of the New York Herald from Memphis, Tennessee : Mrs. Dicie 
Webb keeps a grocery store on Beale Street, and is well known 
to hundreds. Two years ago John Webb, a son of Mrs. Webb, 
married Sarah Kelly, a pretty girl, to whom the mother-in-law 
became greatly attached. Before one year of their married life 
had passed, Mrs. Webb, jun., was stricken with consumption, 
and on several occasions came near dying. About a month ago 
the young woman became very anxious to visit her parents in 
Henderson County, and she was taken there. At first she appeared 
much improved, and hopes were felt that her life might be pre- 
served through the summer, but two weeks ago last Tuesday a 
telegram announced her death, and the husband hurried to her 
parents' home. Three days later he returned with the corpse. 
The mother-in-law pleaded so hard for a sight of the dead woman 
that finally, despite the belief that the body was badly decomposed, 
it was decided to open the coffin. While looking at the placid face, 


Mrs. Webb was terrified at beholding the eyelids of the dead 
woman slowly opening. The eyes did not have the stony stare of 
death, nor the intelligent gleam of life. Mrs. Webb was unable to 
utter a sound. She could not move, but stood gazing at the grue- 
some sight. Her horror was increased when the supposed corpse 
slowly sat upright, and, in an almost inaudible voice, said, 'Oh, 
where am I?' At this the weeping woman screamed. Friends 
who rushed into the room were almost paralysed at the sight, and 
fled shrieking. But one bolder than the others returned and spoke 
to the woman, who asked to be laid on the bed. Hastily she was 
taken from the coffin and cared for. In the course of the day the 
resurrected woman fully regained her mental powers. The day 
following she related a wonderful story. She said she was 
cognisant of all that occurred, and did not lose consciousness 
until she was put aboard the train for Memphis. Soon after being 
placed in her mother-in-law's house she came to her senses and 
knew all that was passing. While her mother-in-law was looking 
at her she made a supreme effort to speak. Mrs. Webb lived a 
number of days, when she again apparently died. The doctors 
pronounced her dead, and she was once more placed in the coffin. 
While the mother-in-law was taking her final farewell she heard a 
voice whisper, ' Mother, don't cry.' Looking into the girl's face, 
she saw the same look that she had noticed before. She called for 
help, and several women responded. Some one cried, ' Shake her ; 
she's not dead.' In the excitement of the moment, the women, it 
is thought, shook the life out of the poor consumptive, and last 
Saturday she was buried. The family and friends have endeavoured 
to keep the matter quiet." 

From the Echo, London, May 13, 1893. 

" A woman at Limoges has just had a narrow escape of being 
buried alive here. She was subject to epileptic fits, and during 
one of these a few days ago was pronounced to be dead. The 
arrangements for interment were made in due course, and as 
the coffin was being borne into the church some of the mourners 
said they heard a knocking inside. The party listened, and 
distinct taps were heard. No time was lost in wrenching off 


the lid of the coffin. It was then found that the woman was 
alive and conscious, although terribly frightened at the awful 
ordeal through which she had passed. A doctor was quickly 
in attendance, and under his direction the supposed corpse 
was removed from the coffin and placed on a litter for con- 
veyance home again." 


Dr. R. G. S. Chew, of Calcutta, writing to the 
author, says: "In 1873 I was a student in the 
Bishop's High School, Poonah (Bombay Presidency), 
where I used to be generally at the head of my 
class, and when competing for the Science Prizes I 
was fully determined to take the first prize or none. 
The Reverend Mr. Watson, Rector of St. Mary's 
Church and Chaplain to our school, knew my dis- 
position, and cautioned me against being too sanguine, 
lest disappointment might tell very keenly. The disap- 
pointment came, and with it much nervous excitability. 
Shortly after this (Christmas, 1873) my favourite sister 
was seized with convulsions that carried her off. From 
the moment of her decease to nearly a month after her 
interment I entirely lost the power of speech. On the 
day of the funeral I was parched with thirst, but could 
not drink, as the water seemed to choke me. My eyes 
were burning and my head felt like bursting, but I 
could neither sob nor cry. I felt quite dazed, and 
followed the procession to the cemetery, where I stood 
motionless by the open grave ; but as soon as they 
lowered the little coffin into its resting-place I threw 
myself headlong into the grave and fainted away. 
Some one pulled me out and carried me home, where I 


lay in a sort of stupor for nine days, during which Dr. 
Donaldson attended me most patiently, and I regained 
consciousness, but was too weak to even sit up in bed. 
On the 1 6th January, 1874, I felt a peculiar sensation as 
of something filling up my throat no swelling, no pain 
nor anything that pointed to throat affection and 
this getting worse and worse, in spite of everything, 
1 died, as was supposed, on the i8th of January, 1874, 
and was laid out for burial, as the most careful examina- 
tion failed to show the slightest traces of life. I had 
been in this state for twenty hours, and in another three 
hours would have been closed up for ever, when my 
eldest sister, who was leaning over the head of my coffin 
crying over me, declared she saw my lips move. The 
friends who had come to take their last look at me 
tried to persuade her it was only fancy, but as she per- 
sisted, Dr. Donaldson was sent for to convince her that 
I was really dead. For some unexplained reason, he 
had me taken out of the coffin and examined very 
carefully from head to foot. Noticing a peculiar, soft, 
fluctuating swelling at the base of my neck, just where 
the clavicles meet the sternum, he went to his brougham, 
came back with his case of instruments, and, before any 
one could stop him or ask what he was going to do, 
laid open the tumour and plunged in a tracheotomy 
tube, when a quantity of pus escaped, and, releasing the 
pressure on the carotids and thyroid, was followed by a 
rush of blood and some movement on my part that 
startled the doctor. Restoratives were used, and I was 
slowly nursed back to life ; but the tracheotomy tube 
(I still carry the scar) was not finally removed till 
September, 1875." 



A lady, distinguished alike for her literary gifts as 
well as for her philanthropy, sends me the following : 

" I am much obliged to you for sending me ' Perils/ 
It is a terrible subject, and one that has haunted me all 
my life, insomuch that I have never made a will without 
inserting a clause requiring my throat to be cut before 
I am put underground. Of course, one can have no 
reliance on doctors whatever, and I have myself known 
a case in which a very eminent one insisted on a coffin 
being screwed down because the corpse looked so life- 
like and full of colour that the friends could not help 
indulging in hopes. 

" My great-grandmother, after whom I am called, a 
famous heiress, was a notable case of narrow escape. As 
a girl she passed into a state of apparent death, and a 
great funeral was ordered for her. Among the guests 
came a young girl friend, who insisted that she was not 
dead, and raised such a stir that the funeral was post- 
poned, and time was allowed to pass till the marvel 
became that there were no signs of change. I could 
never ascertain how long this comatose state lasted before 
she recovered ; but she did recover, so thoroughly that 
after her marriage with Richard Trench, of Garbuly, she 
became the mother of twenty-two children. Obviously 
this was no case of a feeble, hysterical, cataleptic subject. 
I will enclose photograph taken from a miniature of her 
in a ring in my possession. 

"There was another case, well known in Ireland in 
my youth, of a Colonel Howard, who had a fine place 
(I think it was called Castle Howard) in Wicklow. He 
was supposed to be dead, and a lead coffin was actually 


made with his name and date of death on it; after which 
Colonel Howard came to life, and had the plate of the 
coffin fixed over his kitchen chimney as a warning to 
his servants not to bury people in a hurry." 


From the London Echo, March 3, 1896. 

"A letter from Constantinople, in the Politische Korrespondenz, 
gives a remarkable case of an apparent death which would have 
ended in a premature burial but for the high ecclesiastical position 
of the person concerned. On the 3rd of this month, Nicephorus 
Glycas, the Greek-Orthodox Metropolitan of Lesbos, an old man 
in his eightieth year, after several days of confinement to his bed, 
was reported by the physician to be dead. The supposed dead 
bishop, in accordance with the rules of the Orthodox Church, was 
immediately clothed in his episcopal vestments, and placed upon 
the Metropolitan's throne in the great church of Methymni, where 
the body was exposed to the devout faithful during the day, and 
watched by relays of priests day and night. Crowds streamed 
into the church to take a last look at their venerable chief pastor. 
On the second night of "the exposition of the corpse," the Metro- 
politan suddenly started up from his seat and stared round him 
with amazement and horror at all the panoply of death amidst 
which he had been seated. The priests were not less horrified 
when the 'dead' bishop demanded what they were doing with 
him. The old man had simply fallen into a death-like lethargy, 
which the incompetent doctors had hastily concluded to be death. 
He is now as hale and hearty as can well be expected from an 
octogenarian. But here it is that the moral comes in. If 
Nicephorus Glycas had been a layman he would most certainly 
have been buried alive. Fortunately for him, the Canon Law of 
the Orthodox Church does not allow a bishop to be buried earlier 
than the third day after his death ; whereas a layman, according 
to the ancient Eastern custom, is generally buried about twelve 
hours after death has been certified. The excitement which has 
been aroused by the prelate's startling resurrection may tend to 


set men thinking more seriously about the frequent probability of 
the cruel horror of the interment of living persons." 

The above-mentioned facts have been authenticated 
for the author by Dr. Franz Hartmann, of Hallein, 

Speaking on the subject of premature burial the other 
day, a well-known London publisher told the author that 
he personally knew a lady, the daughter of a British 
Consul, who had been taken for dead on two separate 
occasions. On the first occasion the lady had been 
placed in her coffin, and the lid screwed down ready for 
interment. A friend who had known the supposed 
deceased called to condole with the family, and said 

" I should like to have a last look at dear L , if you 

will only permit me." The lid was accordingly removed, 
and the visitor detected, as it seemed to her, signs of life 
in her friend ; she was taken out of her coffin, put in a 
warm bath, and recovered. Some years later the same 
lady fell into a cataleptic state after a fever, and was taken 
for dead. Preparations had been made for the funeral 
in both instances, but delayed beyond the usual time for 
interment. She returned to consciousness, and is now 

Equally remarkable is a case quoted by the British 
Medical Journal, March 12, 1892, p. 577. 

"The Temps publishes a case of premature burial prevented by 
the daughter of the supposed dead man, who, on kissing her father, 
perceived that his body was not cold. The funeral cortege was 
on the point of starting. Suitable measures restored the man to 
consciousness, and he opened his eyes and uttered one or two 
words. His condition is serious, but he is alive. This incident 
occurred at Vagueray, near Lyons." 



The Daily Telegraph, January 26, 1889, reports : 

"A Rochester correspondent telegraphs that a woman named 
Girvin, living at Burham, near Rochester, has just had a narrow 
escape of being buried alive. She fell into a kind of trance, which 
was mistaken for death. The coffin was ordered, and the usual 
preparations made for a funeral. But while a number of the 
relatives were gathered at the bedside bewailing their bereave- 
ment, the supposed corpse startled them by suddenly rising up in 
bed and asking what was the matter. The woman is making 
good progress towards convalescence." 

And on July 6, 1889, the same journal says : 

" Our St. Leonards correspondent telegraphs : About a week 
ago the wife of a well-known tradesman in St. Leonards fell ill, 
and on Monday night last the doctor gave his -opinion that she 
could not live through the next day. On Tuesday morning at ten 
o'clock the doctor pronounced his patient dead, the nurse who was 
in attendance confirming the opinion. The intimation of death 
naturally created great distress among the friends of the woman, 
who was laid out in grave-clothes, washed, and prepared for burial, 
and, being a Roman Catholic, a crucifix was placed in her hand as 
she lay on her bier. When it was announced that the woman was 
dying, a priest was sent for ; but he could not attend, as he was 
out of the town at the time. 

" About a quarter to ten on Tuesday night the nurse entered the 
room without a light for the. purpose of getting something which 
she knew where to find. Whilst in the darkened chamber she was 
startled to hear a slight cry proceeding from the bed where the 
body lay, and she rushed from the room in a terrible fright. The 
widower, hearing the scream of fright, rushed into the chamber 
with a light, and was astounded to find that his wife had raised 
herself up in the bed on her elbow. She faintly uttered the words, 
* Where am I?' and again relapsed into a heavy sleep. The 
opportunity was seized of changing the shroud for proper habili- 
ments, and in about an hour and a half she woke again perfectly 
conscious. Next morning she was told of what had occurred, but 


was quite ignorant of everything that had passed, thinking she had 
only had a long sleep. She is now doing well, and it is hoped she 
will soon be restored to health and strength. The doctor describes 
the case as the most remarkable he has ever met with in his 

The Echo, January 1895, tells, the story of a woman's 
awful experience : 

"An extraordinary affair is reported from Heap Bridge, Hey- 
wood. Yesterday a woman was supposed to have died, and she 
was washed, laid out, and measured for her coffin, a piece of linen 
being placed over her mouth. Eight hours later, however, as two 
women were engaged in the room, the supposed corpse blew the 
linen away, and raised herself up in bed. The two women were 
terribly frightened, and in their hasty retreat both tumbled down- 
stairs, and are now suffering from slight injuries, as well as shock. 
Some time elapsed before any one else could be induced to enter 
the house, but eventually several persons went in together, and 
found the woman still sitting up in bed. She was exceedingly 
weak. Later, however, she succumbed, and the doctor expressed 
the opinion that her death was accelerated by shock. During the 
night the woman conversed with her son, who had carried her 
upstairs for dead, and told him of the awful sensation she felt whilst 
unable to speak during the washing and laying out of her body." 

The Daily Telegraph, London, December 12, 1893, 
mentions the following weird occurrence : 

u Berlin, December 11. 

" From Militsch, in Silesia, an extraordinary case of trance is 
reported. It seems that, owing to the grave not being in readiness, 
some delay occurred in the burial of a lady (the wife of a major in 
the army) who to all appearance had died. On the fourth day 
after the lady's supposed death the maid was placing fresh flowers 
round the coffin, when she was much startled at seeing the body 
move, and finally assume an erect position. The lady had evi- 
dently been in a state of coma during the past four days, and 
narrowly escaped being buried alive." 



How near a person may be to a terrible and ghastly 
death-struggle for a brief period, in which a lifetime 
seems concentrated amid the hopelessness and helpless- 
ness of despair, can, to some extent, be measured by the 
records of the apparently fateful accidents which have, 
at the last moment, saved the sufferers from their awful 

A medical correspondent writes to Cassell's Magazine, 
September 20, 1896, as follows : 

" I once witnessed a curious case of rescue from premature 
burial. The patient was a young woman of nervous temperament, 
who was greatly affected by the death of her brother. On the day 
of the funeral, while standing by the coffin, she suddenly fell as 
one dead. Several physicians present declared she had died from 
heart-failure. When called, I insisted that the young woman was 
alive. Applying the stethoscope to her heart, I ultimately observed 
a slight indication of life. Equally slight indications were 
apparent at various nerve-centres. After two days' treatment the 
young woman spoke. She described all that had occurred around 
her, even her sensations as the doctors were debating as to the 
reality of her death. But she could not contrive to indicate the 
terror she felt at the thought of the terrible fate which awaited her 
should her condition remain undiscovered." 

Again The Morning Leader, December 9 1901, 

reports a telegram thus : 

" Lisbon, Sunday. 

" Donna Maria Gavazzo has had a marvellous escape from being 
buried alive, under circumstances which are to say the least 

" It was announced that she was dead, and the interment was to 
have taken place to-day. At the cemetery the last funeral rites 
were being performed over the bier, when the officiating priest 
believed he heard a sigh proceeding from the coffin. 


"At his direction the coffin was at once opened, when it was 
found that Donna Maria was alive. 

"A further inquiry into the details of the case will certainly be 

The Westminster Gazette, March 16, 1901, states: 

"A narrow escape from being buried alive is reported from 
Tulle. A girl, who had been ill for some time, fell into a state of 
coma. On Sunday night respiration ceased, the body became 
cold, and she was, to all appearance, dead. She was accordingly 
laid out in her best clothes, and her grave and coffin were ordered, 
when, to the terror of her relatives, the supposed corpse began to 
move, and a few minutes later sat up. She had a fit when she was 
told it was thought she was dead. It is now expected she will 
recover. Dalziel" 

Mr. Thomas W. Wright, of Avenue House, Holly 
Park, Crouch Hill, N., writes as follows, May 2, 1901 : 

" I know of two or three cases, one of a woman who has now 
reached a great age, who, when she was about thirty years old, was 
about to be 'screwed down' in her coffin, but fortunately moved in 
time to prevent the undertakers from completing their work. I 
don't know much about the question, but it seems to me that 
medical men are much to blame when they sign certificates of 
death without taking the trouble to see whether their patient is 
dead ; a serious fine or imprisonment in cases of such negligence 
might perhaps check the custom." 

These are sentiments with which every thinking person 
will cordially agree. 



WHENEVER graveyards have been removed, owing to 
the rapid expansion of towns, in America, or examined 
elsewhere, unmistakable evidences of premature burial 
have been disclosed, as will be seen in this volume ; 
bodies have been found turned upon their faces, the 
limbs contorted, with hair dishevelled, the clothing torn, 
the flesh mutilated, and coffins broken by the inmates 
in their mad endeavour to escape after returning con- 
sciousness, to terminate life only in unspeakable mental 
and physical agonies. It may be said that every grave- 
yard has its traditions, but the facts are carefully con- 
cealed lest they should reach the ears of the relatives, or 
incriminate the doctors who had with such confidence 
certified to actual deaths which were only apparent. It 
is not, however, the custom to remove graveyards in 
Europe until all possibility of such discoveries has dis- 
appeared. To reopen a grave is to break the seal of 
domestic grief. There is a widespread belief that where 
a coffin, with a duly certified corpse dead or alive has 
been screwed up, it must not be opened without an 
authorization from a magistrate, mayor, or other official, 
and many people have been suffocated in their coffins 
while waiting for this formality. Common sense, under 
the circumstances, seems to be often paralysed. 



In England it has been decided, Reg. v. Sharpe 
(i Dearsley and Bell, 160), to be a misdemeanour to 
disinter a body without lawful authority, even where the 
motive of the offender was pious and laudable ; and a too 
rigorous interpretation of this and similar enactments 
in other countries has led to the suffocation of many 
unfortunate victims of a mistaken medical diagnosis, 
whose lives, by prompt interposition, might have been 


Koppen, in his work, entitled " Information Relative 
to Persons who have been Buried Alive," Halle, 1799, 
dedicated to His Majesty the King of Prussia, Frederick 
William III., quotes the following amongst a large 

number of cases of premature burial : " In D , the 

Baroness F - died of small-pox. She was kept in 
her house three days, and then put in the family vault. 
After a time, a noise of knocking was heard in the vault, 
and the voice of the Baroness was also heard. The 
authorities were informed ; and instead of opening the 
door with an axe, as could have been done, the key was 
sent for, which took three or four hours before the 
messenger returned with it. On opening the vault it 
was found that the lady was lying on her side, with 
evidences of having suffered terrible agony." 


Struve, in his essay on " Suspended Animation," 1803, 
p. 71, relates the following: "A beggar arrived late at 
night, and almost frozen to death, at a German village, 


and observing a schoolhouse open, resolved to sleep 
there. The next morning the schoolboys found the 
poor man sitting motionless in the room, and hastened, 
affrighted, to inform the schoolmaster of what they had 
seen. The villagers, supposing the beggar to be dead, 
interred him in the evening. During the night the 
watchman heard a knocking in the grave, accompanied 
by lamentations. He gave information to the bailiff of 
the village, who declined to listen to his tale. Soon 
afterwards the watchman returned to the grave, and 
again heard a hollow noise, interrupted by sighs. He 
once more hastened to the magistrate, earnestly solicit- 
ing him to cause the grave to be opened ; but the latter, 
being irresolute, delayed this measure till the next 
morning, when he applied to the sheriff, who lived at a 
distance from the village, in order to obtain the necessary 
directions. He was, however, obliged to wait some 
time before an interview took place. The more judicious 
sheriff severely censured the magistrate for not having 
opened the grave on the information from the watchman, 
and desired him to return and cause it to be opened 
without delay. On his arrival, the grave was immedi- 
ately opened ; but, just Heaven ! what a sight ! The 
poor, wretched man, after having recovered in the grave, 
had expired for want of air. In his anguish and despera- 
tion he had torn the flesh from his arms. All the 
spectators were struck with horror at this dreadful 


An authentic case, on which Devergie has made an 
elaborate report ("Ann. d'Hyg.," 1870, 2, 310) occurred 
near Morlaix, in France. " A woman died, as it was 


supposed, from cholera. She was seen while ill by a 
medical man, but not after the supposed death. She 
was placed in a coffin in an hour, and buried in sixteen 
hours. During the interment a noise was heard in the 
coffin. Time was lost in sending for a medical man, and 
the coffin was not opened until he arrived. The shroud 
was found twisted and folded about the neck and feet, 
as if struggles had been made, and there was a quantity 
of liquid on it, which had issued from the mouth and 
nostrils during efforts made to breathe. The body was 
warm, and the pulsations of the heart had not completely 
ceased, but it was too late, every effort at resuscitation 


The Undertakers' Journal, November 22, 1880, relates 
the following : " An extraordinary story is reported 
from Tredegar, South Wales. A man was buried at 
Cefn Golan Cemetery, and it is alleged that some of 
those who took part in carrying the body to the burial- 
ground heard knocking inside the coffin. No notice was 
taken of the affair at the time, but it has now come up 
again, and the rumour has caused a painful sensation 
throughout the district. It is stated that application 
has been made to the Home Secretary for permission 
to exhume the body." 


Dr. Franz Hartmann, in his " Premature Burial," pp. 
10 and 44, relates the two following cases : " In the 
year 1856 a man died in an Hungarian village. It is 
customary there to dig the graves in rows. As the 


gravedigger was making the new grave he heard sounds 
as of knocking proceeding from a grave where a man 
had been buried a few days previously. Terrified, he 
went to the priest, and with the priest to the police. 
At last permission was granted to open the grave ; but 
by that time its occupant had died in reality. The fact 
that he had been buried alive was made evident by the 
condition of the body, and by the wounds which the 
man had inflicted upon himself by biting his shoulders 
and arms. 


" In a small town in Prussia, an undertaker, living 
within the limits of the cemetery, heard during the 
night cries proceeding from within a grave in which 
a person had been buried on the previous day. Not 
daring to interfere without permission, he went to the 
police and reported the matter. When, after a great 
deal of delay, the required formalities were fulfilled and 
permission granted to open the grave, it was found that 
the man had been buried alive, but that he was now 
dead. His body, which had been cold at the time of 
the funeral, was now warm and bleeding from many 
wounds, where he had skinned his hands and head in 
his struggles to free himself before suffocation made an 
end to his misery." 


A medical correspondent communicates to the author 
particulars of the following case, which occurred at Salz- 
burg, Austria : " Some children were playing in the 
Luzergasse Cemetery, and their attention was attracted 


by knocking sounds in a newly-made grave. They 
informed the gravedigger of it, and he secured permis- 
sion to open the grave from whence the sounds seemed 
to come. A man had been buried there at two p.m. 
that day. The formalities of the permission to open the 
grave delayed it till seven p.m., when, on opening the 
coffin, the body was found to be bent completely over 
forwards, and was frightfully distorted and bleeding from 
places on the hands and arms, which seemed to have 
been gnawed by the man's own teeth. The medical 
experts who were called in to examine the case declared 
that the man had been buried alive." 


From the Undertakers 'and Funeral Directors' Journal, 
January 22, 1887: "Another shocking case of prema- 
ture burial is reported ; the distressing incident took 
place at Saumur, in France. A young man suddenly 
died, at least to all appearance, and his burial was 
ordered to take place as soon as possible. The croque- 
morts, or undertaker's men, who carried the coffin to the 
grave, thought they heard a noise like knocking under 
its lid, yet, being afraid of creating a panic among the 
people who attended the funeral, they went on with 
their burden. The coffin was duly placed in the grave, 
but, as the earth was being thrown upon it, unmistakable 
sounds of knocking was heard by everybody. The 
mayor, however, had to be sent for before the coffin 
could be opened, and some delay occurred in the arrival 
of that official. When the lid was removed, the horrible 
discovery was made that the unfortunate inmate had 
only just died from asphyxia. The conviction is 


spreading that the terrible French law requiring speedy 
interment ought to be modified without delay." 


Mr. William Harbutt, School of Art, Bath, writes to 
me, November 27, 1895 : "The copies of the pamphlet 
* The Perils of Premature Burial,' by Professor Alex. 
Wilder, you kindly sent me are in circulation. Almost 
every one to whom I mention the subject knows some 
instances. One, a case at Radstock, twelve miles from 
Bath, where the bearers at the funeral heard noises 
inside the coffin, but were afraid to open it without the 
authority from a magistrate. When it was opened next 
day the appearance of the body showed that he had 
been coffined alive, and had had a terrible struggle to 


From the Star, London, May 13, 1895 : "A woman 
who was believed to have died the day before was be- 
ing buried at Doussard, when the gravedigger, who was 
engaged in filling up the grave, distinctly heard knock- 
ing coming from the coffin. He called a man who was 
working near, and he came and listened, and heard the 
knocking also. It was then about nine o'clock in the 
morning. The knocking continued, and they listened 
for about half an hour, when it occurred to one of them 
that they ought to do something, so they went to inform 
the local authorities. The cur^ of the village was the first 
to arrive on the scene ; but as no one had any authority 
to exhume the body the coffin was not taken up. All 
that was done was to bore some holes in the lid with a 


drill in such a way as to admit of air. By mid-day all 
the necessary formalities had been gone through, and it 
was decided at last to open the coffin. This was done ; 
but whether the unfortunate woman was still alive at 
this time is doubtful. Some of those present affirm that 
she was. They state that they saw a little colour come 
into her cheeks, and the eyes open and shut. One thing 
is certain viz. : that when at half-past six in the evening 
it was finally decided to consult a doctor, the practitioner 
summoned declared that death had taken place not 
more than five or six hours before. It was thought that 
had the coffin been opened directly the sounds were 
heard the woman's life might have been saved, and she 
would have been spared hours of indescribable torture 
and suffering." 


The Paris edition of the New York Herald, May 14, 
1895, says: "The case of the woman buried alive at 
Annecy, in the Haute-Savoie, the other day, has almost 
found a pendant at Limoges. A woman, belonging to 
the village of Laterie, died, to all appearance at least, a 
few days ago. After the body had been placed in a 
coffin, it was transported to the village church. On the 
way the bearers heard sounds proceeding from it, and at 
once sent for the mayor, who ordered it to be opened. 
The woman was found to be suffering from eclampsia, 
which had been mistaken for death by her relatives." 

When will people learn to exercise common sense, 
and remember that life is more valuable than red tape, 
and the spirit of human pity and practical sympathy of 
greater moment than the lettter of English law? 



THERE is a great and natural reluctance on the part of 
medical practitioners to admit that they have made 
mistakes in death-certification, particularly in any one 
of the various forms of death counterfeits, or suspended 
animation. It should be noted that amongst the lectures 
delivered on special occasions, such as the opening of the 
medical schools, the subjects of trance and the danger of 
premature burial are conspicuous by their absence ; 
allusion to these subjects is of rare occurrence, nor does 
the study of this abstruse branch of medicine, so far as 
can be ascertained, form part of any medical curriculum. 
In the bibliography at the end of this volume, extensive 
as it is, I can hardly refer to a single instance. Dr. Franz 
Hartmann, whose work on " Buried Alive " has passed 
through two English and one German editions, informs 
me that the same reticence is observable in the medical 
schools of Germany. 

Many medical men do not believe in death-trance. 
They declare that they have never seen such a case, and 
in their judgment, when a sick patient ceases to breathe, 
when volition is suspended, and the stethoscope reveals 
no signs of cardiac action, the death is real, and the case 
beyond recovery. But the reader will already have 
gathered, from the results of inquiry in many countries 


disclosed in the foregoing pages, that such evidence is 
not in itself sufficient to justify the risk of possible 
live sepulture. There should be no sign, nor any collec- 
tion of signs, deemed of sufficient weight, apart from the 
process of decomposition. 


As an instance of the justifiable uneasiness caused by 
the neglect of this simple precaution, we quote from the 
Medical Times, London, 1860, vol. i., p. 65. 

"A lady entering upon the ninth month of pregnancy died of 
pneumonia. All the other phenomena of death ensued, except 
that the colour of the face was unusually life-like. On the fifteenth 
day from that of death there was not the least cadaveric odour 
from the corpse, nor had its appearance much altered, and it was 
only on the sixteenth clay that the lips darkened. The temperature 
of the atmosphere had undergone many changes during the time 
mentioned, but although there had been frost for a short period, 
the weather was in general damp and cold." 

This lady may have been dead, but she may not. 
What we maintain is, that the burial laws should have 
been such as to make it certain that she was dead before 
interment, by the appearance of general decomposition. 
And it must be obvious to the least reflective reader 
that in countries where burial follows quickly upon 
supposed death (as in Turkey, France, and Italy, some 
parts of Ireland, and throughout India), or where there 
is no compulsory examination of the dead (as in the 
United States or the United Kingdom), and amongst 
people like the Jews (since Jewish custom enjoins speedy 
interment), and especially in cases of sudden death 
(where attempts at resuscitation are rare), the number 
of premature burials may be considerable. 



We are not oblivious of the fact that a body may 
present the most life-like appearance for a considerable 
period in one case on record as long as twenty-eight 
days in spite of the presence of the usual signs of death. 
Taylor, in his standard work, " The Principles and 
Practice of Medical Jurisprudence," cites a case in point, 
well authenticated, in which, on the eighteenth day 
after every sign of respiration and circulation had ceased, 
the lips presented their usual red colour, and, although 
the body was in a warm room, there was no disagreeable 
odour and no cadaveric ecchymosis, neither was the slow 
cooling nor progressive rigidity observed. The reality 
of death, by the signs of putrefaction, did not become 
apparent until the twentieth day. The author, com- 
menting upon this case, says : " Had this patient fallen 
into the hands of ignorant nurses or attendants, instead 
of professional men, it is probable that the body might 
have been consigned to the grave in two or three days. 
Although, as the event subsequently proved, this would 
not have furnished another instance of the premature 
interment of a living person, yet the proper cours6 in all 
doubtful cases is to wait until that doubt has been 
satisfactorily resolved by the appearance of the obvious 
signs of decomposition." 


In the United States, while there is no law, as in 
France, enforcing burial within a prescribed number 
of days, it is the custom of civil authorities, under 


regulations made by the Boards of Health, to compel 
interments, if delayed beyond a few days. 

Particulars of the following case were sent me by a 
physician, January 17, 1894: 

" Mrs. John Emmons, of North Judson, Ind., was taken suddenly 
ill, and apparently died, a week ago. Her husband desired to keep 
the body for a few days, to make sure of death. It seems that her 
mother went into a trance for four days, rallied, and lived five 
years ; also that her grandfather on her mother's side, after having 
been pronounced dead for six days, awoke, and lived for twenty- 
three years. Mrs. Emmons's body was kept until Saturday, when, 
on the demand of the physician and numerous residents, it was 
interred. During the time between Monday and Saturday the 
body did not become rigid. Mortification did not set in, and she 
was laid to rest without waiting for that, the surest of all tests, to 
take place. Many are of the opinion that the woman has been 
buried alive." 

There are many cases like the above on record, in 
which, although there is no absolute proof of premature 
burial, there is strong presumptive evidence of it. 


The following appeared in Truth (London), on 
May 23, 1895 ; it forms but an example of many similar 
instances of which the writer has heard : 

"The other day I gave a story showing the difficulty of obtaining 
a post-mortem examination after a doctor has once certified the 
cause of death. One of my readers caps it with a gruesome 
narrative of which this is the outline : A man lately died in 
London. The coffin had to be removed by rail, and was to be 
closed on the fourth day after the death. My informant, taking a 
last look at the deceased, was struck by the complete absence of 
all the ordinary signs of death at such a period. In particular, he 
states that there was no rigidity in any part of the body, and there 


was a perceptible tinge of colour in the forehead. He went over 
to the doctor who had attended the deceased, described all the 
signs that he had observed, and begged him to come and look 
at the body before the coffin was closed. The doctor absolutely 
refused, saying that he had given his certificate, and had no 
doubt as to the man's death. The friend then suggested that he 
might himself open a vein and see if blood flowed, to which the 
doctor replied that, if he did so without the authority of the widow, 
he would be indictable for felony. 'Whereupon,' says my informant, 
who was only a friend of the family, ' I had to retire baffled, and 
let matters take their course.' Why on earth he did not take the 
widow into his confidence, or risk an indictment for felony by 
opening a vein on his own account, or even summon another 
doctor, he does not say. I trust that, should any friend of mine 
see my coffin about to be screwed down under similar circum- 
stances, and find equal cause to doubt whether I am dead, he 
will summon up courage to stick a pin into me, and chance the 
consequences. This, however, has nothing to do with the doctor's 
responsibilities. It would seem that the medico in this case was 
either so confident in his own opinion as to decline even to 
walk across the road to investigate the extraordinary symptoms 
described to him, or else that he preferred the chance of the man 
being buried alive to the chance of having to admit he had made 
a mistake. Which alternative is the worst I do not know." 


The Gaulois (Paris), of May 16, 1894, contains the 
following, which manifests a laudable exception to the 
legal custom of enforcing speedy interment : 

"The funeral of the Comtesse de Jarnac, whose death was 
reported to have taken place on Saturday, was fixed for to-morrow, 
but it will probably be postponed. None of the usual signs of 
dissolution have appeared ; the face still retains its colour, and 
rigor mortis has not yet set in. Some hope is even entertained 
that the Comtesse may be simply in a state of catalepsy, and that 
the embolus, to which death was attributed, may have lodged in 


the lungs, not in the heart, in which case it may merely have 
caused a stoppage of the circulation (sic). The body had not been 
placed in the coffin up to a late hour last night." 


One of the authors was present on May 14, 1894, 
with a company of ladies and gentlemen gathered at 
a country mansion in the Austrian Tyrol for afternoon 
tea, when the conversation turned upon the subject of 
premature burial. Among other cases related, the host 
described that of one of his servants, a woman, who 
went to bed with toothache, a long scarf being wrapped 
around her face and neck. As she did not appear the 
following morning, our host entered her room, and 
found her, as he supposed, strangled to death by the 
scarf tightly wound about her neck. A doctor was 
summoned, when he found that the woman was warm 
and limp, her face soft and coloured as in life ; yet, as 
there was no respiration or perceptible wrist-pulse, nor 
beating of the heart, he regarded her as dead, and 
thought it would be proper to bury her. The host had 
doubts, however, about the case, and, having decided to 
observe it further, he had the woman removed to an 
outhouse, where she remained three days longer without 
any change in her appearance or condition in any way. 
But as there was considerable impatience felt at the 
delay of the burial by the people on the estate, the host 
sent for two doctors to make a final examination of the 
woman, and decide as to the existence of life or death. 
The doctors found that no change had taken place 
there was softness of the skin, colour in the face, limp- 
ness of the muscles, and an unmistakable warmth of the 


body ; but as there was an absence of apparent respir- 
ation and beating of the heart, they decided that the 
woman was dead, and urged her burial, which was done. 
They attributed the high temperature to the process of 
decomposition which they assumed was going on, though 
there was no odour of putrefaction noticed by anyone. 

The possibility is that this woman was buried alive. 
And, in the present state of medical education on the 
subject of apparent death and the causes that bring it 
about, many physicians would have come to a like 
conclusion ; but, as physicians generally know very little 
about it, they are not on their guard concerning its 

A number of cases of apparent death that have 
survived where there was strangulation from a scarf* 
as in this case have been reported. The explanation 
in such cases is, that the presssure of the scarf around 
the neck keeps the venous blood from flowing down 
from the brain through the jugular veins, and the brain, 
in consequence, becomes saturated with carbonic acid gas 
from the detained venous blood, and a death- like stupor, 
caused by carbonic acid poisoning, ensues. Artificial 
respiration should in all such cases be resorted to. 


A leading Wes.t End undertaker, whose letter is 
before me, writes under date of June 26, 1896, as 
follows : " In my experience I have had but one case 
come under my personal observation where I had real 
uncertainty as to death being actually present, and that 
was an instance of the kind in which this calamity is 


only likely, in my opinion, to occur. A girl who had 
been to work in Berwick's factory apparently fainted 
and died, and within a few days the friends buried her. 
When we came to close the coffin, there was no evidence 
of death, and we did not close it without having a doctor 
sent for, and receiving his assurance that she was dead. 
When reading the fatal cases which have come to light 
upon this subject, I must confess to looking back upon 
that instance with much fear, and it is but a poor con- 
solation to me that the responsibility was not mine, but 
the medical man's. 


The foregoing cases are recorded because they are 
types of a class that nearly every physician, undertaker, 
clergyman, or other observer has met with or heard of, 
and the probabilities, having regard to the existing con- 
fusion and uncertainty of opinion on the signs of death, 
are on the side of apparent rather than real death. On 
the other hand, a medical correspondent informs the 
author that he is sceptical as to the reported cases of 
narrow escapes, as on more than one occasion his efforts 
to verify the facts have proved abortive. It must be 
admitted that there are difficulties in the way of such 
inquiries. If the subject of trance, or narrow escape 
from burial, is a lady, publicity injures her prospects of 
marriage ; and if a young man, his reputation for busi- 
ness stability is endangered or prejudiced ; so that this 
reticence on the part of relatives is hardly surprising. 
Such persons do not like their gruesome and unpleasant 
experiences to be talked about. 



THOSE who are most subject to the various forms of 
death-counterfeit are persons whose vocations exhaust 
the nervous force faster than the natural powers of 
recuperation, or who resort to narcotics and stimulants 
to counteract the physical depression consequent upon 
nervous exhaustion. Then there is the hysterical 
class principally females, who take but little nourish- 
ment, and who allow their imaginations to run riot upon 
every gloomy subject which arrests them, until the ner- 
vous system becomes prostrate, and they fall into 
a state of lethargy. Those given to fainting, again, 
or those in whom the heart has practically failed from 
shock or loss of blood as in recorded cases of 
soldiers dying upon the battle-field from wounds, and 
who have been brought back to life as long as twelve 
days afterwards. Plague, cholera, typhoid have been 
fruitful sources of such partial inhibition of the heart's 
action, and many are the gruesome narratives of burials 
of persons in a state of coma arising from such causes. 
One shudders to contemplate the possibilities and 
probabilities connected with the hasty burials during 
epidemics of the early part of last and the previous 
century, especially in cases where many bodies were 
hurried into a common grave. 



In an address delivered by Dr. Alexander Wilder, as 
president, before a State medical society in the Hall of 
the House of Assembly in the State of New York, at 
Albany, he said : 

" We exhaust our energies by overwork, by too much 
excitement, overtaxing of the brain and nervous system, 
insufficient resting from labour, the use of tobacco, 
alcohol, and sedatives or anaesthetics, and by irregular 
and improper habits, which hasten the Three Sisters in 
cutting off the fatal thread. Apoplexy, palsy, epilepsy 
are thus likely to prostrate us at any moment : and 
catalepsy, to an extent of which few are aware, is not 
far from any of us." 

Equally, if not even more likely, to be overtaken by 
these simulacra of death are the poor the ill-fed, ill- 
conditioned, and overworked classes. 

With regard to the causation of catalepsy, Dr. W. R. 
Cowers, in Quain's "Dictionary of Medicine," p. 216, 
says : " Nervous exhaustion is the common predis- 
ponent ; and emotional disturbance, especially religious 
excitement, or sudden alarm, and blows on the head and 
back, are frequent immediate causes. It occasionally 
occurs in the course of mental affections, especially in 
melancholia, and as an early symptom of epilepsy." 


Dr. James Curry, F.A.S., in his " Observations on 
Apparent Death," pp. 81, 82, referring to those con- 
ditions and diseases which predispose to death- 


counterfeits, to which women are more liable than 
men, says: "The faintings which most require assist- 
ance, and to which, therefore, I wish particularly to 
direct the attention of my readers and the public, are 
those that take place from loss of blood, violent and 
long-continued fits of coughing, excessive vomiting or 
purging, great fatigue or want of food, and likewise 
after convulsions, and in the advanced stage of low 
fevers. It is but seldom, however, that any attempt at 
recovery is made in such cases ; and several reasons may 
be assigned for this, particularly the great resemblance 
that fainting fits of any duration bear to actual death, and 
the firm belief of the bystanders that the circumstances 
which preceded were sufficient to destroy life entirely." 

The authpr continues, pp. 106, 107: "Nervous and 
highly hysterical females, who are subject to fainting 
fits, are the most frequent subjects of this kind of 
apparent death ; in which the person seems in a state 
very nearly resembling that of hibernating animals, such 
as the dormouse, bat, toad, frog, etc., which annually 
become insensible, motionless, and apparently dead, on 
the setting in of the winter's cold, but spontaneously 
revive on the returning warmth of spring. Here, by 
some peculiar and yet unknown circumstance, the vital 
principle has its action suspended, but neither its exist- 
ence destroyed, nor its organs injured, so as absolutely 
to prevent recovery, if not too long neglected." 


Dr. Franz Hartmann reports a case which occurred 
within half a mile of his residence; near Hallein, 
Austria : " At Oberalm, near Hallein, there died the 


widow of a Dr. Ettenberger, a lawyer. It was known 
that she had previously been affected with fits of cata- 
lepsy, and therefore all possible means were taken for 
the purpose of restoring her to life. All, however, were 
in vain, and her death appeared to be certain. On the 
third day, just before the hour appointed for the funeral, 
the family physician, Dr. Leber, bethought himself of 
trying some fresh experiments on the corpse, when the 
woman revived. She had been fully conscious all the 
time, and aware of all the preparations that were made 
for her funeral, although unable to make it known to 
others that she was still alive." 

Dr. Hartmann says : " In 1866, in Kronstadt, a 
young and strong man, Orrendo by name, had a fit and 
died. He was put into a coffin and deposited in the 
family vault in a church. Fourteen years afterwards, in 
1880, the same vault was opened again for the purpose 
of admitting another corpse. A horrible sight met 
those who entered. Orrendo's coffin was empty, and 
his skeleton lying upon the floor. But the rest of the 
coffins were also broken open and emptied of their 
contents. It seemed to show that the man after 
awakening had burst his coffin open, and, becoming 
insane, had smashed the others, after which he had been 
starved to death." Premature Burial, p. 7. 

Bouchut, in " Signes de la Mort," p. 40, relates that 
" a lawyer at Vesoul was subject to fits of fainting, but 
kept the matter secret, so that the knowledge of it 
might not spread and interfere with his prospects of 
marriage ; he only spoke confidentially of it to one of 
his friends. The marriage took place, and he lived for 
some time in good health, then suddenly fell into one 


of his fits, and his wife and the doctors, believing him 
dead, had him placed in a coffin, and got everything 
ready for the funeral. His friend was absent, but fortu- 
nately returned just in time to prevent the burial. The 
lawyer recovered, and lived for sixteen years after this 


M. Charles Londe, in "La Mort Apparente," p. 16, 
says : " Intense cold, coincident with privations and 
fatigue, will produce all the phenomena of apparent 
death phenomena susceptible of prolongation during 
several days without producing actual death, and con- 
sequently exposing the individual who could be restored 
to life to living burial " ; and he further maintains it as 
an indisputable fact that every day people are thus 
interred alive. 

Struve, in his essay on " Suspended Animation," p. 140, 
says : " In no case whatever is the danger of commit- 
ting homicide greater than in the treatment of persons 
who have suffered by severe cold. Their death-like 
state may deceive our judgment, not only because such 
persons continue longest apparently dead, but because 
the want of susceptibility of irritation is in many cases 
not distinguishable from real death. A man benumbed 
with cold burnt his feet, and had continued insensible to 
pain, nor did he feel this sensation till he warmed them 
at a fire. In this case it is evident that the suscepti- 
bility of irritation was destroyed, while vital power 

A story is told of a grenadier belonging to the 
Strassburg garrison, who was found frozen in the river 


Ill ; he was taken to the hospital, warmth was applied, 
and he survived. At Strassburg, according to Dr. 
Brouardel, on another occasion, a hospital attendant was 
found frozen, was resuscitated, and still continues his 
duties, which he has now performed for many years. 


This is a malady that has been enormously rife all 
over the world during the past few years, and has baffled 
the efforts of physicians and sanitarians to arrest its 
progress : it is sometimes accompanied by conditions 
which can hardly be distinguished from catalepsy. 

The Lancet, May 31, 1890, page 1215, states: "The 
neurotic sequelae of influenza seem engaging more 
attention abroad than at home, probably from their 
symptoms being more pronounced than on this side the 
Channel. * Nona,' as it is called, if something more than 
the somnolence succeeding the exhaustion of influenza, 
has been thought in Upper Italy to have much in 
common with catalepsy one case, indeed, amounting 
to the 'apparent death' of Pacini. This is reported 
from Como. The patient, Pasquale Ossola by name, 
had to all appearance died, and a certificate to that 
effect, after due consultation, was drawn up and signed. 
Already it wanted but an hour or so to the interment, 
when the ' corpse ' began to move spontaneously and to 
exhibit signs of returning life. The relatives of the 
supposed dead man at once called in assistance, and 
though animation and consciousness, even to recog- 
nition, were restored, the resuscitation was not main- 
tained, and the patient died. Fortunately, the funeral 


had been arranged on the traditional lines, and the 
faint chance of return to life was not extinguished by 


Referring to the supposed death of a girl, Sarola, 
aged eleven years, to whom chloroform had been 
administered in September, 1894, under peculiar circum- 
stances, and the body hurried off to cremation, Dr. 
Roger S. Chew, of Calcutta, writes : " That bottle of 
medicine was charged with having caused the death 
of little Sarola, who, I firmly believe, was burned 
alive while in a cataleptic condition induced by the 
hysterical convulsions, and rendered profound by the 
administration of the chloroform. Surgeon Lieutenant- 
Colonel Edward Lawrie agrees with me that at least 
ninety per cent, of the chloroform deaths are preven- 
table if proper measures are adopted to resuscitate the 
body, and it is quite possible for a chloroform anaesthetic 
to be launched into eternity on the funeral pyre or in 
the suffocating earth. What a mournful vista Sarola's 
case opens up, and who can say how many hundreds 
have been similarly disposed of!" Communicated to the 
A uthor. 

Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson, on "The Absolute 
Signs and Proofs of Death," in the Asclepiad, first quar- 
ter, 1889, p. 9, says: "In the first experiments made 
in this country with chloral, after the discovery of its 
effects by Liebreich, we learned that such a deep nar- 
cotism could be induced by this narcotic that it might 
be impossible to say whether an animal under its in- 
fluence were alive or dead." And referring to cataleptic 


trance due to shock, he observes, p. n, "True traumatic 
catalepsy is equally remarkable, and equally embarras- 
sing. It has been witnessed in the most destructive 
form after shock by lightning, and it may also have 
been met with after severe blows and contusions of 
the head." 


Dr. Chew, referring to another of the predisposing 
causes of apparent death, and the danger of premature 
burial in India, says : " In the cholera season there is 
a risk of a soldier being buried alive, as the custom is 
to get rid of the body as soon as possible, and it is very 
seldom indeed that a post-mortem is held on a cholera 
corpse. If the case be one of true cholera, decomposition 
sets in before the breath has entirely left the body, and, 
immediately life is extinct, putrefaction rushes forward 
so rapidly as to render a mistake impossible ; but in 
choleraic diarrhoea or the lighter forms of cholera it is 
possible that coma resultant on extreme collapse may 
suspend animation so as to simulate real death without 
actual cessation of vital energy, and lead to live sepulture, 
except where, by some such lucky accident as the burial 
ground being a long journey off, the funeral is delayed 
sufficiently to give a chance of recovery. And this 
same accident may prove a salvation in syncope or 
coma from shock or protracted illness. 

" With the civil population, save in very exceptional 
cases, there is very little chance of recovery from 
apparent death, as the time between alleged decease 
and sepulture is very short indeed ; and unless there 
are unmistakable signs of trance, syncope, or coma, the 
victim must die after he (or she) has been buried alive." 



Dr. Brouardel, Professor of Medical Jurisprudence, 
Paris, mentions a case which came under his own eyes 
while he was house-physician at La Pitie. He says : 
" A little bricklayer, aged thirteen, was brought in 
one day, who had fallen from the sixth story to the 
pavement. The accident happened in the Rue de la 
Tournelle. The boy had been taken to a chemist, who 
pronounced him to be dead, and sent him on to the 
hospital. The director refused to admit him, as he was 
dead. Now, either by intuition or else to bamboozle the 
director, I stated that the lad was alive, although sounds 
of the heart could not be heard on auscultation. I had 
him put into a mustard bath, and, to my delight, he 
came to. He had received no wound, nor any definite 
injury, only he remembered nothing." The writer adds 
" He might have been buried alive." 


M. Bourneville cites the case of an old woman found 
in the street, who no longer breathed or gave any sign 
of life. Rectal temperature was 77 F. She was taken 
to hospital, where energetic treatment was employed, 
and she was restored to life. M. Laborde also mentions 
a case of a man picked up in a lifeless condition at the 
gate of the Bicetre. His rectal temperature was 75 F. 
He eventually recovered. 


Living burials take place because the general public 
are ignorant of the fact that there are many (some 


thirty) diseases, and some states of the body that cannot 
be called diseases, as well as a number of incidents and 
accidents, which produce all the appearances of death 
so closely as to deceive any one. 

Excessive joy or excessive grief will often paralyse 
the nervous system, including the action of the heart 
and the respiratory functions, and occasion the appear- 
ance of sudden death ; as well as shocks, blows upon 
the head, fright, strokes of lightning, violent displays of 
temper ; also certain drugs now in common medical 
use, such as Indian hemp, atropia, digitalis, tobacco, 
morphia, and veratrum. According to Dr. Leonce Lenor- 
mand, in " Des Inhumations Precipitees," pp. 85-104, the 
following diseases and conditions not infrequently pro- 
duce the like symptoms, viz., apoplexy, asphyxia, cata- 
lepsy, epilepsy, nervous exhaustion, ecstasy, haemorrhage, 
hysteria, lethargy, syncope, tetanus, etc, 

Dr. Hartmann observes: " The cases in which persons 
apparently dead have been restored to health by appro- 
priate means are innumerable, and such accounts may 
be added to without end, as they are of daily occurrence, 
while it is also self-evident that, if they had not thus 
been saved, premature burial and death in the coffin 
would have taken place. But it also often happens that 
cases of apparent death recover spontaneously, and even 
after all possible means taken for the restoration of life 
have failed. This is specially the case in catalepsy, due 
to nervous exhaustion, which requires no other remedy 
than sufficient rest for the recuperation of the life-power, 
which no kind of medicine can supply." 



THE following are some of the facts and experiences 
which were brought to the author's notice during a visit 
to India in the early part of 1896. 


On February 9, 1896, I visited the Burning Ghat on 
the banks of the Ganges, Calcutta, where twenty bodies 
are reduced to ashes by fire daily. The corpse of an 
aged Hindu woman had just been brought in on my 
arrival ; death, we were told, having occurred but an 
hour before. The deputy registrar asked the nearest 
relative a few questions as to the age, caste, next of kin, 
cause of death, which were duly recorded in a book kept 
for that purpose, and the charges having been paid, the 
body, which was as supple as in life (and except for 
want of volition bore no visible marks of death), was 
placed upon the logs, which were alternately crossed over 
each other, other logs being placed on the top of the 
body, with straw underneath. The family being poor 
in this case, no expensive spiced oils, ghee, or sandal 
wood were used. The pyre having been sprinkled with 
water from the sacred river, the nearest male relative 
took a wisp of lighted straw and ran seven times round 


it, shouting, " Ram, Ram, sach hai " (the god Ram is 
true and great indeed). He then applied the torch, 
which in a few seconds reached the body, while a Hindu 
priest recited verses from the Vedas. The process of 
burning occupied about four hours. Two other bodies, 
one an adult, and the other a child, were nearly burnt to 
ashes during my visit. 


It appears that in India, when the body is motionless, 
and assumes a death-like appearance, as in trance or 
catalepsy, no attempt is ever made at resuscitation, no 
matter how suddenly or unexpectedly the supposed 
death may occur, nor is there any proper method 
of examination for the purpose of death-certification- 
Amongst the Hindus death is not considered an evil, 
but is the gate leading to a better and happier world. 
Many Hindus, when ill, are carried by their friends to 
the banks of the sacred Ganges, where they meet death 
with much hope, and without fear. 

At the General Hospital, Colombo, I was told by Dr. 
Van Lagenberg that there was absolutely no protection 
against premature burials for persons subject to trance, 
as, although according to the law medical certification 
was obligatory, medical examination was not ; the 
doctor taking the word of the friends as to the fact of 
death, and certifying accordingly. Early burial (about 
six hours after death) was the rule. The Mother 
Superior to the staff of nurses mentioned the case of 
the venerable Father Vestarani, an aged Catholic priest 
of Colombo, who was subject to attacks of epilepsy ; 


these were followed by apparent death, and he had 
several narrow escapes from premature burial. This 
case was also known to my friend, Mr. Peter de Abrew, 
of Colombo, and others. The house surgeon, Dr. H. M. 
Fernando, said that amongst the Moslems burial followed 
apparent death very quickly, sometimes in an hour. 


From Mr. Vira Raghava Chri, of Madras, manager of 
the Hindu, I learned that the Brahmins always burn the 
dead soon after death occurs. The relatives, if they 
reside within easy reach, are sent for. The body is 
washed in cold water, and after two or three hours the 
religious service begins, which is performed by the 
priests, and consists of citations from the Vedas, having 
reference to the departure of the soul from the body, 
and to the lessons the solemn event teaches. These 
ceremonies generally last for two or three hours, after 
which the body is taken to be burned. In answer to 
my inquiries as to what would happen if within that 
time no sign of decomposition was exhibited, Mr. Chri 
informed me that under no circumstances would they 
wait for more than six hours before the body was taken 
to be burned. He had heard of cases of persons declared 
to be dead coming to life while being carried to the 
funeral pyre, when they were restored to and welcomed 
by their friends. Cases were also known of the corpse 
sitting up amidst the flames, and being beaten down by 
those in charge of the funeral. They were believed to 
be the victims of premature cremation. He thought, 
however, that such cases were rare amongst his co- 


Mr. Mohan Chunder Roy, M.B., of Benares, said that 
it was a very difficult matter, even for a medical prac- 
titioner, to distinguish the living from the dead, and 
where there were no signs of putrefaction, it was his 
custom to advise the relatives to wait before burial, or 
before sending the body to the burning ghat, which they 
were very reluctant to do. When apparent revivals to 
consciousness occurred on the pyre, the superstitious 
people believed that it was due to the presence of evil 
spirits, and the attempt to escape is frustrated by 
cremators in charge of the burning ghat. This bar- 
barous custom has been repeatedly affirmed to me by 
intelligent natives as a matter of common notoriety. 

One reason why Hindus are hurried to the cremation 
ground so quickly, and without waiting to see whether 
the case is one of trance or suspended animation, is that 
the relatives are not allowed either to eat or drink while 
the body remains in the house. If a person touches any 
article in the house of mourning, that article must be 
washed and purified. After the cremation all the rela- 
tives purify themselves by bathing before they are allowed 
to eat or drink. 


Mr. Durga Prasad, editor of the Harbinger, Lahore, 
writes, February 29, 1896: "I recollect, when about 
twelve years old, my grandmother, who was held in 
great esteem for her piety and experience, told me that 
she was once declared to be dead, and was therefore 
carried to our crematorium, or burning-place ; but when 
about to be burnt she came back to life." 


Mr. Joseph, assistant secretary at the Public Library 
and Museum, Colombo, told the author that his father, 
owing to weakness of the heart, was subject to frequent 
attacks of trance-like insensibility. They passed away 
by simple treatment in a few hours, but were sometimes 
quite alarming. He was afraid, owing to the super- 
stitious fear of death among the ignorant classes in 
Ceylon, and the terror which keeping a corpse, or a 
person in a state of catalepsy, where volition had ceased, 
excited, that many were buried or buf ned alive, as it was 
the custom, particularly amongst the Mohammedans, 
to carry the body away a few hours after death. Signs 
of decomposition quickly appeared in a tropical climate, 
but this unequivocal mode of verifying death was not 
often waited for by Moslems. 


Sri Sumangala, the venerable High Priest of the 
Buddhists of Ceylon, and Principal of the College for 
Buddhist Priests, at an interview the author had with 
him in January, 1896, stated that among the Sinhalese 
the chances of burial or cremation of the apparently 
dead are not frequent. Their customs are such that a 
corpse is seldom or never removed for burial or crema- 
tion before the expiry of twenty-four hours after death 
is said to have taken place. During that time climatic 
influence renders signs of decomposition and putrefaction 

Only one case came under the observation of the 
venerable theologian, which was that of a person bitten 
by a cobra. The man apparently succumbed, but a 


native specialist, having arrived at the cemetery just 
before the burial, examined the case, and said that life 
was not extinct ', and saved the man from a premature 

The following is from the British Medical Journal, 
April 26, 1884, p. 844: 


"The Times of India, for March 21, has the following story: 
On last Friday morning the family of a Goanese, named Manuel, 
aged seventy years, who had been for the last four months suffer- 
ing from dysentery, thinking that he was dead, made preparations 
for his funeral. He was placed in a coffin and taken from his 
house, at Worlee, to a chapel at Lower Mahim, preparatory to 
burial. The priest, on putting his hand on the man's chest, found 
his heart still beating. He was thereupon removed to the Jamset- 
jee Jejeeboy Hospital, where he remained in an unconscious state 
up to a late hour on last Friday night, when he died." 


In a communication to the author from Mr. Nasarvariji 
F. Billimoria, dated March 14, 1896, the writer says 
that where cases of premature burning have occurred in 
India, the relatives are unwilling to have the facts 
published, and shrink from making them known. 
Moreover, when persons have been once declared dead, 
and have been rejected by their friends in the land of 
shadows, and have returned to this life, they are 
believed to brin^r misfortune with them, and discredit is 


attached to the families in consequence. Mr. Billimoria 
says the following cases can be relied upon as 
authentic : 

"In the year 18 , in the town of B , a Marwari was taken 

as dead, and carried to the cremation-ground. Unfortunately, at 


that time a superstition was prevalent among all classes of Indians 
that, if a dead one is brought back to his or her house, a plague 
would break out in the town. When, therefore, the Marwari sur- 
vived, instead of bringing him back to the house, or even allowing 
him to roam elsewhere, he was killed, it is said, by a hatchet, which 
they were in the habit of carrying with them to break the fuel for 
the funeral pyre. This had happened in the old Gaekwari days 
when Governments did not interfere in the superstitious customs 
of the people." 

Fortunately, however, those days are gone, and with 
them the old superstitions. Some time ago a fisher- 
woman, after taking a liberal dose of alcoholic drink 
and opium, was found (apparently) dead by her rela- 
tives low-caste Hindus. No time is lost among the 
Hindus, high or low caste, to remove the body to the 
cremation ground after a man is found dead. 

"A bamboo bier was being prepared to carry the fisherwoman 
to the Samashdn (cremation ground), upon which the body was 
laid as usual, and the relatives were to lift it to their shoulders : 
when, lo ! the woman turned herself on the bier on her side, and, 
thanks to the good sense of the fisherman, she is still enjoying her 
life while I am writing. 

" A young daughter of a Bania was sick for a long time, and was 
found apparently dead by her relatives, and carried to the Sama- 
shdn. These grounds are generally situated at a river side. When 
the bier was prepared for certain ceremonies, the girl showed signs 
of revival, and, one by one, the relatives would go near the bier, 
bend down, stare at the face, and retire aghast. Information had 
reached the town that the girl had survived ; but the body, never- 
theless, was cremated, and never brought back to the house. It is 
believed that in this case, although the girl had revived for a little 
time, she had died soon afterwards, as she had been ill for a long 
time previously. Granting that this was a case in which the dying 
became actively conscious a few minutes before real death, it is 


certain that great and indecent haste was practised by the relatives 
in pressing on the cremation, as is the usual mode in India." 


The Bombay Guardian, January n, 1896, reports : 

"A Brahmin went to Poona, to attend the National Congress. 
He was laid up with fever, became dangerously ill, and fell into a 
trance. His friends, thinking him dead, made the necessary 
arrangements for the funeral. They took the supposed dead man 
to the river to be burned, but just as the funeral procession 
arrived near the Shane temple his head and hands were seen 
moving. The cloth having been removed from his face, he opened 
his eyes and tried to speak. He was taken home." 

The subject of hasty and premature burials in India 
might with much profit be introduced at the National 
Congress. The author believes that thousands of people 
are annually buried and burned in a state of suspended 
animation particularly in places where cholera, small- 
pox, and other devastating plagues prevail. It is usual 
both amongst the Parsees and the Hindus, to begin 
preparations for the religious ceremonies when the case 
is considered hopeless. 

Dr. Roger S. Chew, of Calcutta, who for some years 
occupied the position of army surgeon in India, writes 
to the author : " Though there is every risk of live 
interment with those classes who bury their dead, this 
is a risk (save in cases of epidemic or battlefield) the 
British soldier never runs in India, where the military 
law requires that a post-mortem examination, not earlier 
than twelve hours after decease, must be held on 
every soldier who dies from any cause except a highly 


contagious or infectious disease." In the present un- 
satisfactory state of the law might not this safeguard 
be generally adopted? 


On Sunday, March 15, 1896, my daughter and I 
were accompanied to the Towers of Silence, situated on 
the highest part of Malabar Hill, Bombay, by Mr. Phiroze 
C. Sethna, a highly accomplished Parsee merchant, to 
whom we were indebted for many acts of kindness 
during our sojourn in the city. The position is one 
of rare beauty, commanding as it does charming 
panoramic views of Bombay and the surrounding neigh- 
bourhood, while immediately below are extensive cocoa 
and other tropical plantations. At the entrance to the 
towers is a notice-board in English, stating that none 
but Parsees are admitted. We passed under the porch 
into the sacred enclosure, and found ourselves in the 
midst of a lovely garden planted with choice shrubs 
and trees, and were each presented by the gardener 
with bouquets of freshly-cut flowers. 

The towers are five in number, the smallest having 
been erected in 1669, all modelled after the same pat- 
tern, and are about twenty-five feet high. Inside is 
a cbcular platform about three hundred feet in circum- 
fertwce paved with large slabs, and divided into rows 
of shallow open receptacles in which the bodies are 
placed. There are three sections for males, females, 
and children. We noticed a number of vultures sitting 
on the adjacent trees, and were informed that, when a 
funeral is on its way, large numbers congregate upon 


the coping of the tower, ready to seize the body and 
devour it the moment it is deposited by the corpse- 
bearers on the slabs, after the conclusion of the funeral 
ceremonies. In an hour or less the corpse is completely 
stripped of its flesh, when the bones are thrown into a 
well. From a sanitary point of view the plan is pre- 
ferable to burying or to cremation, which last, as it is 
carried out in India, is a slow and tedious process. 
Vultures have never been known to attack children, or 
even babies left by their mothers tied for safety to a 
branch of a tree, and will not, it is said, attack a person 
only apparently dead, as in a trance or coma. 


Another custom amongst the Parsees in the treatment 
of their dead is to bring a dog to the corpse before it is 
removed from the house, and another dog on its arrival 
at the Tower of Silence. This ceremony is known as the 
Sagdeed. In a pamphlet on the "Funeral Ceremonies of 
the Parsees," by Ervad Jivanji Jamshedje Mody, B.A., 
a learned priest of the Parsee cult, with whom the 
author had the pleasure of an interview, the explanation 
is that, according to the ancient belief, the spotted dog 
can discriminate between the really and the apparently 
dead. Dr. Franz Hartmann and other writers appear 
also to be of the opinion, which the author considers 
highly probable, that a dog knows whether his m; ster 
is really dead or only in a trance ; but that a strange 
dog would be able to discriminate and act as a sentinel 
to prevent a living person being mistaken for a dead 
one, is highly improbable. 



Having heard of several cases of persons taken to the 
Towers of Silence who recovered consciousness after 
being laid within the enclosure, I asked Mr. Jivanji 
Mody what would happen in such a case, and what 
means of escape there would be. Mr. Mody replied 
that within the tower there is a chain hanging from the 
coping to the floor, by which a person could draw 
himself up to the top of the structure, and he would then 
be seen and rescued. In a neatly-constructed model of 
these towers at the museum, Victoria Gardens, Bombay, 
no chain is visible. The subject of apparent death, or 
suspended animation, and how to prevent premature 
burial, premature cremation, and premature exposure 
in the Towers of Silence, is beginning to excite interest 
in some parts of India. Mr. Ardeshar Nowroji, Fort, 
Bombay, student of Zoroastrian literature, is to read 
a paper on the subject before the Debating Society 
at Elphinstone College. Mr. Soabjee Dhunjeebhoy 
Wadia is also studying literature bearing on the same 

Mr. Dadabohy Nusserwanje, a Bombay Parsee and 
merchant, residing at Colombo, Ceylon, informed the 
author, January 28, 1896, that he knew of two cases 
where his co-religionists had been declared dead, and 
the bodies prepared for burial (the preparation including 
the long religious service as prescribed by their formulas), 
who were only in a trance. This was proved by their 
having come back to life when placed in the Towers 
of Silence in Bombay. It appears that any persons 
officially and religiously given over for dead were 


formerly not allowed to be restored to their relatives, 
or to the society to which they belonged, as they were 
supposed to carry with them, from their dead associates, 
liability to plague or ill luck, and they are consequently 
obliged to migrate to distant parts of the country. My 
informant said that this superstition was so deeply 
rooted in the minds of the Parsee people that he did 
not think a reform was possible. 


Cases of persons in a trance, mistaken for dead, are 
by no means uncommon, as would appear from the 
following communication from Mr. Nasarvariji F. 
Billimoria, a Parsee of Bombay, addressed to Dr. Franz 
Hartmann, and not previously published : 

" Several cases of revival of the apparently dead among the 
Parsees," writes Mr. Billimoria, " have come to my notice. 

"A Parsee, whom I shall call M B , was given up as 

dead. The body was laid on the ground, and the usual 
ceremonies were being performed, when, to the surprise of the 
people surrounding the body, he rose and described some spiritual 
experience. He died long after this event took place, at a good 
old age, at Bilimora, a town about eighty miles north of Bombay. 

"S , a girl of about ten years, was also taken as dead in the 

same town, and, after laying her body on the ground, prayers were 
being recited by the priests. She rose and said that she had been 
to some other land, where she saw an old lady who ordered her 
to go away, as she was not required there just then. She died at 
a good old age a few months ago. 

"A woman in the garb of a Hindu beggar was some time ago 
in the habit of interviewing Parsee ladies at odd times, viz., at 
about three or four o'clock in the morning, at the same place, and 
asking several questions pertaining to religion. It was afterwards 


found that she was K (widow of a Parsee priest), who had 

apparently died a short time before, and, after revival, had emerged 
from the Tower of Silence, and, a superstition being prevalent 
among the people that none should be taken back among us who 
return from the dead, she dared not unite with the Parsees, and 
hence led a wanderers life. 

" In Bombay, too, I have heard of some cases of the revival of 
the apparently dead among the Parsees, the principal of them 
being a lady of a wealthy family, and a Parsee who afterwards 
carried on his profession as a physician. The physician was living 
as a Christian on account of the prejudice among the Parsees 
before referred to. He was called "Mutchala Daktar," z>., doctor 
with big moustache. 

"Similar cases had also occurred in Surat, where two Parsee 
women had returned from the Towers of Silence, one of whom 
lived afterwards as a Sanyasini. What became of the other I 
cannot say." 


" The funeral ceremonies among the Parsees provide 
that, after the signs of death are manifest, the body be 
washed with warm water, and laid on a clean sheet ; 
two persons hold the hands of the dead person, joining 
themselves by a paivand of tape. The priests recite 
certain prayers, after which the body is laid on ground 
set apart for the purpose in the house. Here it lies for 
several hours, during which time priests recite alternately 
certain prayers, while a fire is kept alive with fragrant 
combustibles near the body. The Nasasalars, or 
corpse-bearers, arrive at the appointed time, when 
the fire is taken away, and other manthras or prayers, 
which occupy an hour or so, are recited by two priests 
conjointly, gazing first on the iron bier, and then on 
the face of the body. A procession is then formed 


and the body is carried by the Nasasalars only, the 
others walking in pairs, joining themselves by holding 
a handkerchief in their hands, several yards distant from 
the body. The Towers of Silence are removed from 
the habitations of mankind, sometimes miles distant, 
where, after the arrival of the funeral procession, the last 
obeisance is performed, and the body is carried into the 
tower, which is called Dukkmdh, the mourners, except 
the Nasasalars, remaining outside. The procession 
returns after further prayers. The towers are entirely 
open from above to allow ample sunlight, and to allow 
the carrion-birds access to the dead. 

" From the foregoing it would appear that, with regard 
to the disposal of the dead, the Parsee system offers 
advantages, in respect of the revival of the supposed 
dead persons, over the European system of burial. 
After real or supposed death, a fire is kept burning near 
the body, the heat of which would indirectly assist in 
resuscitating those in a state of suspended animation. 

"If a man dies in the afternoon his body is not carried 
to the towers till next day, and in that case the fire is 
kept alive the whole night near the body, two priests 
alternately reciting manthras. Some time is thus allowed 
to intervene between the supposed death and the disposal 
of the body in the Towers of Silence. There, too, the 
body is not laid without Zoroastrian ceremony. But in 
the system of disposal itself we see another protection, 
in that the carrion-birds do not touch the body unless 
they instinctively find evidence of putrefaction. It is a 
fact that in not a few cases persons have escaped from 
the dismal and terrible fate of bein laid alive in the 


Towers of Silence. The system of disposal in the tower 


may appear to non-Zoroastrians repulsive ; but neither 
the system of cremation or burial will give us back 
those whom they have once devoured. That the Parsees 
do not allow those who have returned from the Towers 
of Silence to intermingle among them is another ques- 
tion. This too, however, has attracted the attention 
of this small community ; and I hear that there is a 
standing order issued from the trustees of the Parsee 
Panchayet at Bombay to the Nasasalars (the corpse- 
bearers) to the effect that they would be rewarded if they 
would give information or bring back any body which 
had been revived after it had been carried to the Towers 
of Silence." 


The Parsee custom of using the dog is suggestive. 
There are numerous cases on record where a dog, 
following his master to the grave as one of the 
mourners, has refused to leave the grave ; and these 
have been quoted as a proof of the undying love of 
the master's canine friend. May it not be that dogs 
are gifted, as believed by the Parsees, with another sense 
denied to most men the faculty of discerning between 
real and apparent death ? A medical correspondent 
relates the following : 

"In Austria, in 1870, a man seemed to be dead, and was 
placed in a coffin. After the usual three days of watching over 
the supposed corpse, the funeral was commenced ; and when the 
coffin was being carried out of the house, it was noticed that the 
dog which belonged to the supposed defunct became very cross, 
and manifested great eagerness towards the coffin, and could not 
be driven away. Finally, as the coffin was about to be placed in 


the hearse, the dog attacked the bearers so furiously that they 
dropped it on the ground ; and in the shock the lid was broken 
off, and the man inside awoke from his lethargic condition, and 
soon recovered his full consciousness. He was alive and well at 
last news of him. Dogs might possibly be of use in deciding- 
doubtful cases, where their master was concerned." 

Also the following : 

"The postmaster of a village in Moravia 'died' in a fit of 
epilepsy, and was buried three days afterwards in due form. He 
had a little pet dog which showed great affection towards him, and 
after the burial the dog remained upon the man's grave and 
howled dismally, and would not be driven away. Several times 
the dog was taken home forcibly, but whenever it could escape it 
immediately returned. This lasted for a week, and became the 
talk of the village. About a year afterwards that part of the 
graveyard had to be removed owing to an enlargement in building 
the church, and consequently the grave of the postmaster was 
opened, and the body was found in such a state and position as 
to leave no doubt that he had been buried alive, had returned to 
consciousness, and had died in the grave. The physician who 
had signed the certificate of death went insane on that account,, 
soon after the discovery was made." 


EARLY burials are advocated and defended by certain 
writers on sanitary grounds ; and there is, no doubt, 
something to be said for them, provided the body shows 
unmistakable signs of dissolution. 

I have not unfrequently seen in the course of my 
professional duties, when visiting the houses of the poor, 
a corpse placed in its coffin in a corner of the tiny 
sitting-room of a four-chambered hovel in a- city slum, 
where the family were having their meals, and all day 
a stream of neighbours would be calling to gaze upon 
the gruesome spectacle. It might be urged that such 
instances demanded, in the name of decency, that speedy 
burial should be enforced, but do not such weird 
conditions rather call for a waiting mortuary, whence 
the body could be removed until unmistakable signs of 
death set in ? To impose a general rule of speedy burial 
upon Englishmen by Parliament, or upon Americans by 
State Legislature, as has been urged, would but add to 
the existing evil of perfunctory and mistaken diagnosis 
of death, and greatly increase the number of premature 


The Romans kept the bodies of the dead a week 
before burial, lest through haste they should inter them 


while life remained. Servius, in his commentary on 
Virgil, tells us " That on the eighth day they burned 
the body, and on the ninth put its ashes in the grave." 
Plato enjoined the bodies of the dead to be kept until 
the third day, in order (as he says) to be satisfied of 
the reality of the death. Quintilian explains why the 
Romans delayed burials as follows : " For what pur- 
pose do ye imagine that long-delayed interments were 
invented ? Or, on what account is it that the mournful 
pomp of funeral solemnities is always interrupted by 
sorrowful groans and piercing cries ? Why, for no 
other reason, but because we have seen persons return 
to life after they were about to be laid in the grave as 
dead." " For this reason," adds Lancisi, in " De Subita 
Mort," lib. i., cap. 15, "the Legislature has wisely 
and prudently prohibited the immediate, or the too 
speedy, interment of all dead persons, and especially 
of such as have the misfortune to be cut off by a sudden 

Terilli, a celebrated physician of Venice, in a treatise 
of the " Causes of Sudden Death," sect. vi. cap. 2, 
says : " Since the body is sometimes so deprived of 
every vital function, and the principle of life reduced so 
low, that it cannot be distinguished from death, the laws 
both of natural comparison and revealed religion oblige 
us to wait a sufficient time for life manifesting itself by 
the usual signs, peradventure it should not be, as yet, 
totally extinguished ; and if we should act a contrary 
part, we may possibly become murderers, by confining 
to the gloomy regions of the dead those who are actually 



Mr, Cooper, surgeon, in his treatise on " The Uncer- 
tainty of the Signs of Death," pp. 70, 71, had in his 
possession the following certificate, written and signed 
by Mr. Blau, a native of Auvergne, a man of untainted 
veracity : < I hereto subscribe, and declare, that fifty- 
five years ago, happening to reside at Toulouse for the 
sake of my studies, and going to St. Stephen's Church 
to hear a sermon, I saw a corpse brought thither for the 
sake of interment. The ceremony, however, was delayed 
till the sermon should be over ; but the supposed dead 
person being laid in a chapel, and attended by all the 
mourners, about the middle of the sermon discovered 
manifest signs of life, for which reason he was quickly 
conveyed back to his own house. From a consideration 
of circumstances, it is sufficiently obvious that, without 
the intervention of the sermon, the man had been 
interred alive." 

Between 1780 and 1800 many pamphlets on the 
subject appeared in Germany and France. Opposite 
sides were taken, some advocating delay until putre- 
faction, others urging immediate burial. 

In 1791, Rev. J. W. C. Wolff, in Germany, published 
numerous narratives of narrow escapes from the grave. 

In 1792, Rev. Johann Moritz Schwager stated that 
he had preached for twenty years against precipitate 
burials, and that he had been requested to do so by 
a number of corporate bodies who had evidence of the 
danger of hasty interments. 

About 1800 great excitement prevailed in Germany 
on account of some narrow escapes from living burial 


that happened in high quarters, many books and pam- 
phlets having been issued, and sermons preached by the 
clergy on the subject. The key-note of all of these was 
the fallaciousness of the appearances of death, and that 
none were reliable but decomposition. 

About this period Dr. Herachborg, of Konigsberg, 
Prussia, wrote that for forty years, as a doctor, he had 
always been disgusted with the practice of hasty 
burials ; and to show the ignorance of the times, he 
mentions the case of a woman he kept under observation 
in bed for three days, when her relations took her out 
and placed her on the floor, insisting that she was dead, 
He resisted her burial, and had her covered with 
blankets ; so that by being kept warm she recovered 
completely. He insisted that no sign of death could 
be relied upon. 

The British Medical Journal of April 12, 1862, p. 390, 
quotes the Gaz. Med. d' Orient as follows: "People 
in Constantinople are, in all probability, not unfrequently 
buried alive, in consequence of the precipitancy with 
which their burial is performed. If the person dies 
during the night, he has some chance of escaping prema- 
ture sepulture ; but if he dies during the day, he is sure 
to be in his tomb in two hours after he has drawn his 
last breath. Facts of daily occurrence in this country, 
we are told, prove that persons who were thought to 
have died during the night have recovered before 
morning, and thus, thanks to the intervention of night, 
have been saved from being interred alive. Other facts 
of not unfrequent occurrence show that persons have 
recovered while on their road to the grave. In other 
rarer cases, again, the cries of the revivified half-buried 


ones have been heard by the passers-by, and thus saved 
from a horrible conclusion." 


In all countries it is the custom amongst the Jews to 
bury their dead, and apparently dead, quickly, without 
taking the slightest steps for restoration, and many are 
the catastrophes recorded. 

In 1788, Marcus Hertz wrote strongly against the 
prevailing precipitate burials among the Jews. He 
asked " What motive could justify hasty burials," and 
continued : " The writings of learned men and doctors, 
of both early times and recent date, describe the dangers 
of precipitate burial ; there is not a town in the world 
that has not its stones of revivals in the grave." 

"The Report of the Royal Humane Society" of 1802 
states : " At the funeral of a Jewess, one of the bearers 
thought he heard repeatedly some motion in the coffin, 
and informed his friends. Medical assistance being- 
obtained, she returned to her home in a few hours, 
completely restored." 

The Jewish World, September 13, 1895, observes: 
" Cases of trance and of the burial of persons who only 
seemed to be dead, and of narrow escapes of others 
from the most terrible of all imaginable fates, are not 
so uncommon as most people suppose ; and while Jews 
adhere to the practice of interring their dead within a 
few hours after their supposed demise, there will always 
be a risk of such horrible catastrophes happening, even 
more frequently among us than among the general 
community. Here is, then, really a matter in which 
some reform is needed, and that without a day's delay. 


" To say nothing of the merely human aspect of this 
important question, to bury until decomposition has 
actually set in might possibly be shown to be a violation 
of Jewish Law. It is now commonly admitted that even 
expert medical men cannot be absolutely certain of 
death until some signs of decomposition have shown 
themselves. Now, so strict is the Jewish Law as regards 
the risk of destroying life, that it is prohibited to even 
move or touch a man or woman who is on the point of 
death, lest we hasten, by a moment, their dissolution. 
It is, therefore, no less than a violation of the Jewish 
laws against murder to preserve a custom that involves 
even the minutest scintilla of risk of premature burial. 
It is high time that this question was seriously taken up 
by the Jewish clergy and laity." l 

In the province of Quebec no interment is permitted 
within twenty-four hours, and the Jews reconcile them- 
selves to this delay, which, however, is far too brief to 
ensure safety. 


The British Medical Journal, March 8, 1879, p. 356, 
under the heading of " Suspended Animation," relates 
the following incident: 

" A Jew, aged seventy, who had been ailing for some 
time, apparently died recently in Lemberg, on a Friday 
night, after severe convulsions. The decease having 
been legally certified, the body was put on a bier, 

1 For the antiquity of the Jewish practice of early burial, see appendix. 


preparatory to the funeral, which had to be deferred, 
the next day being the Jewish Sabbath. Two pious 
brethren who had, according to their custom, been 
spending the night in prayer, watching the dead, were 
suddenly, on the morning of the Saturday, disturbed 
from their devotions by strange sounds proceeding from 
the bier, and, to their dismay, saw the dead man slowly 
rising, and preparing to descend from it, using at the 
same time very strong language. Both brethren fled 
very precipitately ; and one of them has since died from 
the effects of the fright. It is hoped by the Wiener 
Medicinische Zeitung, that this case will make the local 
government watch the Jewish funerals more carefully, 
as it is known that the Jews often bury their dead very 

The Undertakers 1 Journal, January 22, 1887, says: 

"The dangers that may arise from premature interment 
are illustrated by a sensational incident which recently 
occurred at Trencsin, in Hungary. The wife of the 
Rabbi of the Jewish Congregation apparently died 
suddenly without having been previously ill. The 
night before the funeral the female watcher, sitting in 
an adjoining room, heard a noise in the chamber of 
death, and when, stricken with horror, she ventured to 
open the door, she found that the seemingly dead woman 
had risen from her bier, and had thrown off the shroud 
by which she was covered. By a fortunate accident the 
interment had been postponed in consequence of the 
intervening Sabbath, otherwise a horrible fate would 
have overtaken the Rabbi's wife." 



The Lancet, August 23, 1884, vol. ii., p. 329, comments 
thus upon the subject of " Burying Cholera Patients 
Alive " : 

" It is not so much undue haste as inexcusable care- 
lessness that must be blamed for the premature burying 
of persons who are not really dead. Such heedlessness 
as alone can lead to the commission of this crime is 
not a shade less black than manslaughter. We speak 
strongly, because this is a matter in regard to which 
measures ought to be at once taken to render the 
horrible act impossible, and to dismiss all fear from the 
public mind. If it be a fact, as would seem to be 
indisputable, that during the last few weeks there have 
been cases we will not attempt to say how many or 
how few of burying alive, a scandal and a horror, 
wholly unpardonable in the last quarter of the nineteenth 
century, have to be faced; and the sooner the full truth 
is known and rules of safety established the better. 
Let it be once for all decided that measures shall be 
taken to ascertain the fact of death before burial. Why 
not revert to the old practice, and always open a vein 
in the arm after death, or pass a current of electricity 
through the body before the coffin is finally screwed 
down? It may be held that these unpleasant resorts 
are unnecessary. We do not think they are. In any 
case enough is known of the possibilities of ' suspended 
animation' to render it unsafe to bury until the evidences 
of an actual extinction of life are unmistakable ; and, as 
it is impossible to wait until decomposition sets in in all 
cases . of death from infectious diseases, it would be 


prudent to adopt what must certainly be the least of 

Whilst sharing most fully with the Lancet its 
justifiable indignation at the scandals which had 
undeniably occurred, we, nevertheless, cannot agree 
with its conclusion as to the impossibility of waiting 
until decomposition sets in in the case of infectious 
diseases. If, as it maintains, it is not possible to wait 
until the only absolute sign of death is manifest, then, in 
a large majority of cases, there is no safety, and those 
who die fatally mutilated by horrible accidents may be 
considered fortunate. The difficulty, we admit, is of a 
serious nature, particularly for the poor, and can only 
be overcome by the erection of mortuaries, as discussed 
in another chapter. The expedient of applying the 
electric current, suggested by the Lancet, has been 
proved useless in cases of death-trance, where the 
patients are impervious to the most violent modes of 
cutaneous excitation. 


It is well known that sailors, as a rule, are very 
superstitious as to dead bodies remaining on board ship, 
and it has been the invariable custom, except under 
very special circumstances, to drop a deceased voyageur 
overboard as speedily as possible. The danger attending 
such a practice is evidenced by the following circum- 
stance, communicated by Dr. K. H. Crom, dentist, 
Munich, in a letter dated 2Oth June, 1899 : 

"In 1886 or 1887 a Mrs. Miller was taken suddenly 
ill while on a voyage from France to America. In spite 


of the efforts of the ship's surgeon, she continued to 
grow worse, and apparently died, and was prepared for 
burial at sea ; but her husband, although overcome with 
grief, noticed that she did not assume the rigidity 
characteristic of death, and accordingly begged the 
captain to defer the burial until rigor mortis was noticed 
or putrefaction set in. The captain kindly consented, 
and a strict watch was kept to detect any sign of 
returning consciousness or of putrefaction. 

" Her husband was, of course, a constant watcher, and 
hardly left her side for two days ; and, remarkable as it 
may seem, it is -nevertheless a fact that, after a period of 
about forty-eight hours, signs of returning consciousness 
were observed. Restoratives were applied, and in a short 
time she was able to converse, and in a few days she was 
to all appearances as well as ever. During her state of 
apparent death, she was at times perfectly conscious of 
her surroundings, although unable to move or make the 
slightest sign to let those around her know she was still 


It may be said that the dangers which have been 
referred to in this chapter are not so imminent in 
the United Kingdom as in France, Spain, Portugal, 
or even in the United States, owing to the existence 
of a more temperate climate, and the longer period 
allowed for burial. This may be so and yet the 
danger be considerable. It must be remembered that 


in the rural districts nothing in the shape of examination 
to establish the fact of death is practised ; while in 
certain parts of Cornwall, throughout the greater part 


of agricultural Ireland, amongst the Jews in all cities 
and towns, as well as those who in all places are certified 
as having died of cholera, small-pox, and other infectious 
and epidemic diseases, burial often follows certified death 
quite as quickly as in the Continental States before 
mentioned. In all the public resorts on the Continent 
the hotel-keepers, through an insensate fear of death 
and the injury which the possession of " a corpse," dead 
or alive, may do to their business, have them coffined 
and disposed of, particularly in the night, within a few 
hours of their supposed death. Dr. D. de Lignieres, in 
"Pour ne pas etre Enterre Vivant," Paris, 1893, says he 
has known of burials under such circumstances six hours 
after death. This author says that these scandalous 
homicidal acts are of everyday occurrence, and that the 
rapacious landlords have no difficulty in obtaining 
certificates of death from the accommodating mort 
verificateurs. Every one who visits the hotels des villes 
d'eaux, des stations balmaires, may verify (he says) the 
truth of this statement for himself. In short these are 
willing disciples of the " Latest Decalogue " : 

"Thou shalt not kill ; but need'st not strive 
Officiously to keep alive." 




MANY of those who are most familiar with the phenomena 
of life and death, including celebrated physicians, men 
of science, and clergymen, knowing that all the ordinary 
signs of death (referred to in another chapter) have, in 
practice, sometimes proved delusive, have been a prey 
to the suspicion that a fatal mistake is possible in their 
own case. They have, therefore, left precise instructions 
in their wills for various preventives which experience 
has shown to be necessary, and in some instances a 
combination of these, so as to make doubly sure that 
they shall not be subjected, like thousands of human 
beings, to the unspeakable horrors of being buried 
alive. Such is the morbid dread of premature burial 
that, since Count Karnice-Karnicki's method of pre- 
venting burial alive (which will be described later on) 
has been introduced, many hundreds of persons in 
France have left directions in their wills for his system 
to be adopted at the time of their alleged decease. 
Several daily papers drew attention to two wills 
published on the same day, viz., Aug. 13, 1903, where 
the testators gave special directions to ensure the 
certainty of their demise. 

One was the late Mr. John Newton, a well-known 
silk dyer, of Macclesfield, who asked that his executor, 


on hearing of his death, should call in a doctor other 
than his regular medical attendant, to ascertain and 
satisfy himself, by any scientific or other means, that 
life had left his body, and that he was not in a state 
of "coma, trance, or suspended animation." 

The second will was that of Miss Caroline Townsend 
Robarts, of Bromley, Kent, in which the testatrix 
desired that on her death a medical man should cut 
an artery or apply some other means to ascertain that 
death was certain, and to avoid the danger of her being 
buried in a trance. 


Mr. Horace Wei by, in his volume entitled " Mysteries 
of Life, Death, and Futurity," 1861, under the head of 
" Premature Interment," p. 114, says : " How prevalent 
is the fear of being buried alive may be gathered from 
the number of instances in which men have requested 
that, before the last offices are done for them, such 
wounds or mutilations should be inflicted upon their 
bodies as would effectually prevent the possibility of an 
awakening in the tomb. Dr. Dibdin relates that Francis 
Douce, the antiquary, requested, in his will, that Sir 
Anthony Carlisle, the surgeon, should sever his head 
from his body, or take out his heart, to prevent the 
return of vitality ; and his co-residuary legatee, Mr. 
Kerrick, has also requested the same operation to be 
performed in the presence of his son." 

The late Lady Burton, widow of Sir Richard Burton, 
provided that her heart was to be pierced with a 
needle, and her body to be submitted to a post-mortem 
examination, and afterwards embalmed (not stuffed) by 


competent experts. Lady Burton, it is said, had been 
subject to fits of trance on more than one occasion,, 
and was terribly afraid that such an attack might be 
diagnosed as death. 

The Secretary to the Howard Association says that 
Howard, the philanthropist, dreaded premature burial 
both for himself and others, and ordered that after 
his death one or two of his veins should be opened, 
and his burial delayed for at least five days. 


Bishop Berkeley, Daniel O'Connell, and the late 
Lord Lytton entertained similar apprehensions. Wilkie 
Collins had a like fear, for he always left on his 
dressing-table a letter in which he solemnly enjoined 
his people that if he were found dead in the morning, 
he should at once be carefully examined by a doctor. 
Hans Christian Andersen had a similar dread, and 
carried in his pocket a note to the effect that, when 
the time came, his friends were to make sure that he 
was really dead before burial. Harriet Martineau left 
her doctor ten pounds to see that her head was am- 
putated before burial. The dread of being buried 
alive dictated a clause in the will of the distinguished 
actress, the late Miss Ada Cavendish, for the severance 
of the jugular vein ; and prompted the late Mr. Edmund 
Yates to leave similar instructions, with the provision 
that a fee of twenty guineas should be paid for the 
operation, which was carried out. Mr. John Rose, of 
New York, who died in November, 1895, made known 
his earnejt desire, that his coffin should not be closed, 


but laid in the family vault at Roseton, and guarded 
day and night by two caretakers, who were instructed 
to watch for signs of re-animation. 

A well-known and eccentric Dublin doctor, Dr. 
Heron, was found dead in his bed at Monkstown in 
October, 1901, and pinned to the bed over his body 
was the following note, written in pencil : " Notice. 
Do not bury me till I am dead. Don't mind the 
doctors, unless they put a knife through my heart. 
You will never forgive yourselves. To all in the 
Division Court when I may be thought dead. No 
mortal can tell if a man is dead until he begins to 
rot, or there is a good hole through his head." Evidence 
at the inquest showed that the poison was taken in 
darkness in mistake for a sleeping draught, and a 
verdict of " death from misadventure " was returned. 

One of His Majesty's Judges informed the author 
recently, that he was so convinced of the danger of 
premature burial, that when sojourning in a strange 
city he made a practice of arranging with the Surgeon- 
General, or other trustworthy expert, to see that life 
was absolutely extinct before the interment of his 


The Lancet, March 17, 1886, says : "There are many 
apparently trustworthy stories afloat, both in this country 
and on the Continent, which favour the belief that 
premature interment not only does sometimes take 
place, but is really of not so unfrequent occurrence as 
might be supposed. Some few believe it to be not an 
unlikely event, and break out into a cold perspiration 


at the thought of the possibility of the misfortune 
happening to themselves. Others have actually made 
provision in their wills that means should be taken, by 
cutting off a finger, or making a pectoral incision, etc., 
to excite sensibility, in case any should remain after 
their supposed death ; whilst a French countess, in orcler 
to escape so terrible a fate, left a legacy to her medical 
attendant as a fee for his severance of the carotid artery 
in her body before it was committed to the tomb." 

Those who are most apprehensive of apparent death 
being mistaken for real death are the clergy and other 
ministers of religion, and funeral directors in other 
\vords, those who kno\v the most about it. 

Let anyone introduce the subject when in company, 
and startling cases will Invariably be narrated by one 
and another sufficient to shake incredulity, and to 
compel us to realise the danger to ourselves, as well 
as to all other members of the community, under our 
present loose customs in regard to the treatment of 
the supposed dead. If this dread of premature burial 
is not universal, as some writers and authorities aver,. 
it is certainly widely extended ; and the evidence set 
before our readers will show that it is by no means 
without foundation. 


The Rev. John Kingston, chaplain R.X., writing to- 
the (London) Morning Post, September 18, 1895, says 
" The danger of being buried alive appears to be a very 
real one ; and I can testify, from my experience as a 
clergyman, that a great many persons are haunted by 


the dread of that unspeakably horrible fate." The 
writer further expresses a hope that the ventilation of 
the subject will be followed by practical results. 

While speaking on the subject of premature burials> 
in a lecture delivered at Everett Hall, Brooklyn, New 
York, June, 1883, Mr. J. D. Beugless, the then President 
of the New York Cremation Society, said that an under- 
taker in that city (Brooklyn) recently made provision in 
his will, and exacted a promise from his wife of great 
caution, that his body should be cremated, being induced 
thereto by the fear of being buried alive. " Live burials/' 
he says, " are far more frequent than most people think." 
It is reported that another undertaker of Brooklyn some 
time since deposited a body in a receiving vault tempo- 
rarily : when he went some days later to remove it for 
burial, what was his horror, upon opening the niche in 
which the coffin had been placed, to find the body 
crouching at the door, stark in death, the hair dis- 
hevelled, the flesh of the arms lacerated and torn, and 
the face having the most appalling expression of horror 
and despair ever witnessed by mortal eyes ! 


An undertaker, writing to the Plymouth Morning 
News, October 2, 1895, mentions that he reluctantly 
buried a young person, who lay in the coffin for seven 
clear days without sign of decomposition, and only 
consented to close the coffin then, on the assurance that 
the same conditions attended all the deaths which had 
previously occurred in the family. Dr. Hartmann and 
other authorities have found that such cases are probably 


the subjects of catalepsy, a malady which sometimes runs 
in families and affects every member. The undertaker 
adds that, in future, he should decline to close the coffin 
of the apparently dead until signs of decomposition 
set in, " thus preventing the possibility of our worst 
fears being realised." If undertakers generally would 
adopt these wise and necessary precautions, living 
sepulture would come to an end. Under the existing im- 
perfect system of medical examination and, as we have 
shown, both in England and in the United States, where 
there is usually no examination at all there is often 
a reckless haste in interments. No thoughtful persons 
can contemplate the burial of a million and a half 
human beings annually in these two countries without 
mistrust and misgivings. 

As^ recently as the I3th January, 1904, the Paris 
correspondent of the London Echo reports a case from 
Valence, where a young woman at the village of Fortes 
fell into a cataleptic state so deep that it was thought 
she was dead. 

The usual funeral arrangements were made, and the 
friends and relations were taking a last look at the 
supposed corpse when it sat up. 

The girl appeared terror-stricken at her surroundings, 
and leapt from the window to the pavement, three 
storev u<flo\* , and was killed on the spot. 


As already pointed out, many well-to-do people in 
civilised countries provide in their wills for the pre- 
vention of premature interment, by leaving instructions 
for surgical operations after their decease, post-mortems, 


embalmment, or cremation. It may happen, however, 
that wills are mislaid, lost, or withheld by the testators, 
or are not opened and read until after the funeral, when 
the instructions in this regard, however strictly enjoined, 
are rendered nugatory. Bequests should be given 
conditionally on the observance of certain duties, and 
only payable on proofs to the executors that they have 
been carried out. A large majority of people do not, 
however, leave testamentary instructions, for the simple 
reason that they have nothing to bequeath. And the 
majority have an equal claim with the minority to be 
safeguarded by the State against such terrible mis- 
fortunes. Syncope, sometimes mistaken for death, is a 
condition to which both men and women, who are 
compelled by their poverty in all large cities to endure 
exhausting labours in ill-ventilated work-rooms, and 
their often ill-nourished children in board schools in 
England and in the public schools in America, are 
peculiarly liable. 

In view of the ghastly consequences .which may 
result from a mistake that cannot be rectified when 
the grave is closed, and in view of the justifiable fear 
which is spreading among intelligent persons as to 
burial alive, the most stringent State regulations 
should assuredly be enforced, so that rich and poor 
alike may be effectually safeguarded against this most 
awful of human catastrophes. 




THE idea commonly entertained is that with animal 
bodies there are only two possible conditions either 
life or death ; that the presence of one of these con- 
ditions implies the absence of the other ; that when 
the body has assumed the appearance of death, as 
during the sudden suspension of all the functional 
activities, it must be dead. This last is far from 
being true ; for all the appearances of death are 
fallacious, especially those that accompany so-called 
sudden death. All such cases should be challenged 
as of doubtful character, and held so till recover}- or 
putrefaction of the tissues proves the presence of life 
or of death. This subject is too often treated by 
medical writers with indifference. Technically, it is 
regarded as a failure of the brain, or lungs, or heart, 
to perform their functions ; popularly, we say that 
"the thread of life is snapped asunder," or it is 
"the going out of life," like the sudden extinguishing 
of a candle. Experience, however, teaches that life 
leaves the body in a gradual manner, and that death 
approaches, and takes the place of life, in one part 
or organ after another, thus creeping through the 
tissues and sometimes defying all tests to prove its 


presence, leaving putrefaction to be its only sign. 
There can be no such thing as veritable sudden death, 
unless the body is crushed into a shapeless mass, like 
an insect under foot 


The late Dr. Farr, of the Registrar-General's Depart- 
ment, London, says : " No definition of the sense in 
which sudden death is practically understood by 
coroners has been given." Dr. Granville says : " The 
writers on medical jurisprudence do not state with 
any strictness what they mean by sudden death, 
whether it be death in ten minutes, ten hours, or ten 
days." l And he asks in the same vein, " Does sudden 
death mean death in three minutes, three hours, or 
three days ? " 2 Still further he remarks regarding 
the customary definitions, " They lead one to infer 
that a certain mysterious principle, called LIFE, has 
been instantaneously withdrawn from a healthy and 
well-constituted individual, who was at the very 
moment, as heretofore, exercising his proper animal 
functions with a regularity that promised to endure 
for a long continuance of years. . . . No such 
phenomena occur in Nature, unless through violence 
or from accident. Under Nature's laws there is no 
such thing as sudden death. . . . In every case 
where death has abruptly cut short the thread of life, 
there has been a preparation, more or less antecedent 
to the occurrence, which must inevitably have led to 
it. ... The victim may seem to have been 

1 Dr. A. B. Granville, "Sudden Death," p. 278. 2 Ibid., p. 278. 


struck down, as if by lightning. But in reality the 
event was only the natural termination of an inward 
state of things which insidiously and unexpectedly 
was preparing the blow." L 

Dr. Tidy, in ' ; Legal Medicine," p. 29, says : " As 
a rule, the action required to bring about complete 
molecular death i.e., the suspension of vital activity 
in every part is progressive. In a given case, there- 
fore, \ve are unable to state any definite time as the 
period of its occurrence. The popular idea of death 
is that the entire body dies at once. Somatic death 
is an impossibility." 


Thus, it is clear that the process of death, or the 
departure of life, may require days or weeks for its 
completion ; and it may even be delayed to a time 
when putrefaction has set in quite generally, as when 
the hair and nails grow after the body has been buried 
some weeks, as has been credibly reported. Writers 
upon so-called sudden death recite a number of diseases 
and conditions which quickly destroy the machinery 
that carries on the vital functions, thus rendering resus- 
citation quite impossible. Tidy'^ names some twelve of 
such causes : prominent among them are diseases of the 
heart, rupture of the heart, clots in the blood vessels, 
aneurisms, effusions of blood in the brain, bursting of 
visceral abscesses, ulcers of the stomach, extra-uterine 
pregnancy, rupture of the uterus or bladder, large 

1 Dr. A. B. Granville, " Sudden Death," p. 279. 
a Tidy, " Legal Medicine/' part i., pp. 279-280. 


draughts of cold water taken when the body is heated, 
cholera, alcoholic poisoning, mental emotions, etc. But 
he remarks upon these causes: "Because a- person dies 
suddenly, there being no evidence of violence or poison, 
the action adopted by many coroners in not requiring a 
post-mortem examination leaves the most important wit- 
ness the dead body itself unheard, and the inquest so 
far valueless." Which may mean that, without the risk 
of an autopsy, it is impossible in such cases to determine 
whether they are beyond resuscitation or not, unless 
putrefaction settles the question. Unfortunately there 
is nothing in the external appearance of those cases of 
so-called sudden death in which the vital machinery 
may be totally wrecked, to distinguish them from those 
of apparent death, in which all the organism is in a 
state of perfect integrity, and in which resuscitation is 
possible, provided the vital principle has not entirely 
left the body. Consequently, the only safe rule to 
observe in all cases in which death has not followed 
poisoning, or injuries which kill outright, or some known 
disease of sufficient duration and severity to bring on 
dissolution, is to wait for unmistakable evidences of 
decomposition before autopsy, embalming, cremation, 
or burial is allowed. 

In former times precipitate interments of persons who 
died suddenly were specially guarded against. 


Nothing is more common, on opening a newspaper, 
than to see one or more announcements of sudden 
death. These occurrences are so frequent that the 
great London dailies, except when an inquest is held, 


or when the deceased is a person of note, omit to record 
them. The narratives are much alike : the person, 
described to be in his usual health, is seized with faint- 
ness in the midst of his daily avocation, and he falls 
down apparently dead ; or he retires for the night, and 
is found dead in his bed. In many instances post- 
Hiortems are made and an inquest held ; but in other 
cases the opinion of the attendant doctor, that the 
death is clue to heart-disease, syncope, asphyxia, coma, 
apoplexy, or " natural causes," is deemed sufficient. 
The friends who are called in to look at the body will 
remark, " how natural and how life-like," " how flexible 
the limbs," " how placid the face " ; and, without the 
faintest attempt at resuscitation, arrangements are made 
for an early burial. 


Dr. Alexander Wilder, Professor of Physiology and 
Psychology, in a letter to the author, says : " There 
are a variety of causes for sudden death. The use of 
tobacco is one. Another is overtaxed nervous system. 
Men of business keep on the strain till they drop from 
sheer exhaustion. At the base of the brain is a little 
nerve - ganglion, the medulla oblongata, which, once 
impaired, sends death everywhere. Overtaxing the 
strength by study and mental stress will do this. The 
solar ganglion below the diaphragm is the real vital 
focus of the body. It is first to begin, last to die. A 
blow on it often kills. An emotion will paralyse it. 
Even undue excess at a meal, or the use of overmuch 
alcohol, may produce the effect. 


" Tobacco impairs the action of the heart. An over- 
full stomach may paralyse the ganglionic centre, and 
breathing is liable to stop. It is dangerous in such 
cases to lie on the back. All these deaths are by 
heart-failure." It is syncope where the heart fails first ; 
asphyxia where the lungs are first to cease ; coma when 
the brain is first at fault. "Natural causes" and "heart- 
failure " usually mean, like " congestion," that the 
doctor's ideas are vague. 

Dr. Wilder continues : " I would choose such a death 
if I could be sure it was death. But most of those things 
which I have enumerated may cause a death which is only 


The following briefly extracted cases from English 
papers are typical of thousands of others, and can be 
duplicated, with slight variation in terms, throughout 
the United States. The absolute proof of the reality 
of such deaths is not found in hasty diagnosis or in 
medical certificates, but in the presence of putre- 
faction : 


"On Wednesday evening last, Mr. A. N. Laughton, High Bailiff, 
held an inquest on the body of John Cringle, of Glenmaye. 
Deceased was employed as second hand on board the lugger 
"Choice," awaiting fair weather before proceeding to Kinsale. 
On Tuesday night the deceased went on board the boat about 
eleven o'clock, seemingly in good health and the best of spirits, 
and instead of going to bed he remained lying on the locker. 
Nothing was heard during the night to cause alarm, but the \ 
cook, on going to rouse him early in the morning, found him 
dead. Dr. Cell was sent for, but found he had been dead for 
some time. 


"At the inquest, which was held on Wednesday evening, Dr, 
Cell gave evidence, stating that death had been caused by 
failure of the heart. The jury returned in accordance with 
medical testimony. It seems a great pity that there is not a 
proper mortuary in town, but that the body should be placed 
anywhere. We think it high time something should be done 
to procure one." Manx Sun, April 4, 1903. 


"A painfully sudden death occurred at Foleshill on Sunday 
evening. Mrs. Pearman was preparing to go for a walk. She 
went upstairs, leaving some friends below. As she appeared to 
be absent rather a long time, and as her movements could not 
be heard, someone in the house called to her. No answer was 
received, and, on a visit being paid to the bedroom, she was 
found lying on the floor dead. The doctor was called, but he 
could only pronounce life extinct. Deceased, who was about 6r 
years of age, is stated to have been as well as usual lately, and 
had not been medically attended for five years." Midland Daily 
Telegraph, April 6, 1903. 


"On Thursday morning, a boy named Howard Leslie Pearson r 
aged thirteen years and seven months, the son of Mr. Walter 
Ernest Pearson, clerk, residing at 29 York Road, Grays, died 
suddenly at his father's residence. It appears that in the morning 
deceased went to school apparently in his usual health, but about 
half-past eleven he became unwell, and was sent home by the 
master. As his condition became worse, medical aid was sum- 
moned by the parents, but the poor lad expired before the doctor 
arrived." Essex Times, April 15, 1903. 


"On arriving home at Disley, John Hill discovered his wife 
Mary dead in an outhouse. Deceased, who was 50 years of age, 
was quite well when her husband left home in the morning. She 
ate a good breakfast with her husband on Monday morning, and 
then prepared herself to go shopping. Her husband left, and 


on returning home, on going to the outbuildings, he found his 
wife quite dead. Death is supposed to have taken place from 
heart disease or apoplexy." Manchester Weekly Chronicle, April 
1 8, 1903. 


"About half-past four o'clock on Saturday afternoon, Sutcliffe 
Haigh, mill-hand, of No. 2 Bank End, Nettleton Hill, Longwood, 
and his wife (Ann Haigh), went to a tea party. After tea they 
went for a walk, and about seven o'clock Mrs. Ann Haigh 
suddenly fell to the ground. Her husband raised her head on 
his knee. She breathed heavily, and died in a few minutes. The 
deceased had been in good health." Huddersfield Examiner, 
April 27, 1903. 


"A Guiseley reservist named George Gedgeington, employed by 
the Midland Railway Company, was found dead in bed yester- 
day morning. The previous evening he had retired to rest in 
apparently the best of health. Medical opinion was that death 
was due to natural causes. He was 29 years of age." Leeds 
Mercury, April 27, 1903. 


"A girl named Agnes Dennis, residing with her parents in 
Coatbridge, was discovered dead in bed last night. The girl was 
in the best of health, and during the night had not complained. 
Dr. Cordiner saw the body, and attributed death to natural causes." 
Glasgow Evening Times, May 5, 1903. 


"A painfully sudden death occurred to Mr. Thomas G. Ginns, 
the steward of the Working Men's Club, early on Wednesday 
morning. Ginns, who was at play at cricket on Tuesday after- 
noon, was in excellent spirits, and appeared all right, and attended 
to his duties up to closing time as usual. He went to bed 
apparently in as good health as usual." Northampton Daily 
Reporter, June 3, 1903. 



"The death of Mr. William Murray Maxton, chemist, Abbey 
Corner, Kelso, occurred very suddenly on Saturday last. De- 
ceased, who was a man of middle age, was in his usual health and 
at business on the previous day, and next morning he was found 
dead in bed. A short time ago he sustained a slight injury to one 
of his arms, but it is not thought that this contributed in any way 
to his death, which was, we understand, attributed to syncope. "- 
Kclso Mail, July 2, 1903. 


"The sudden death of Mrs. Ruth Shepherd, formerly of Deer- 
play, occurred on Monday evening. Deceased appeared in good 
health about nine o'clock the same evening, and was standing in 
the farmyard when she was taken suddenly ill, and nearly fell to 
the ground. She was carried into the house, and the doctor sent 
for, but she died at 10.30, in the presence of two neighbours who 
had been called in. When Dr. Helm arrived, he pronounced life 
extinct, and attributed the cause of death to a stroke. On Wednes- 
day noon an inquest was held at Deerplay Inn, before Mr. J. 
Robinson, Mr. Atkinson being foreman of the jury. A verdict 
of death from natural causes was returned." Rossendale Free 
Press, July 4, 1903. 


"A young woman named Florence ^Matilda Evans, aged 
eighteen, who lives with her parents in 4 Constellation Street, 
Cardiff, died under remarkable circumstances on Friday night. 
She went to bed about a quarter past ten, apparently in good 
health. She did not complain of feeling unwell, and had not 
been attended by a doctor. Yet, three-quarters of an hour later, 
her mother went into the bedroom and found her dead. It 
was a great shock to Mrs. Evans, who had no suspicion that 
her daughter was ailing. Dr. Blight, of Newport Road, was 
immediately called in, and examined the body. The probability 
is that death was due to natural causes." South Wales Daily 
News, August 3, 1903. 



"'The death is recorded of Henry Ridley, a twister, about 37 
years of age, who lived at 4 Marpeth Street. He was a single 
man, and for the last seven years had been healthy and worked 
regularly. Yesterday afternoon, whilst at work at a mill in 
Trafalgar Street, he was seen to fall from his stool, and, when 
picked up, life was found to be extinct." Blackburn Star, Sep- 
tember 4, 1903. 


" Mr. Hill' attended at Hebden Bridge for the purpose of inquir- 
ing into the circumstances attending the death of Mrs. Amos 

"Amos Crossley, carter, Mitchell Street, Fairfield, said deceased 
was his wife, and was 36 years of age. She had enjoyed very good 
health. She never had attacks of fainting. Her breathing had 
not been at all troublesome. He last saw her alive about seven 
o'clock on Thursday morning, when they had breakfast together. 
She seemed very well then. 

"Robert Newbury West, locum tcnens to Dr. Cairns, said that 
he was called to see deceased about half-past twelve, and he 
found her laid on the floor when he arrived. She was quite dead. 
There was congestion round the neck, and the lips were livid. 
That pointed to hemorrhage on the brain, or apoplexy. 

"The Coroner She was rather young for that ? 

"Witness She was young, certainly, but there might be diseased 
arteries. The circumstances pointed to syncope or apoplexy, but 
from the appearance of the deceased the latter was the more 
probable. He did not notice whether she had anything in her 
mouth or not. 

"The jury returned a verdict that deceased died from natural 
causes, probably apoplexy." Todmorden News, September 18, 


" Mr. John Jones, a contractor employed at Messrs. Bowers' 
works, Ruabon, died suddenly on Wednesday. On the previous 


day he had been in excellent health. Death being attributed to 
failure of the heart's action, no inquest was deemed necessary. "- 
Liverpool Daily Post, September 25, 1903. 


"On the iQth March, 1903, Johnnie Williams, of Taiteg, aged 
ten, went to school as usual, apparently enjoying robust health. 
Soon he complained of being unwell, and began to vomit. The 
schoolmaster sent him home, and he was put to bed, and soon 
died from failure of the heart. Dr. Lloyd was summoned, but he 
arrived after life became extinct." -North Wales Times, Denbigh,, 
November 28, 1903. 

"A death, exceedingly painful in its suddenness, occurred at 
Astley Bridge on Saturday. The deceased was a young woman 
named Leah Elizabeth Stables, 21 years of age, a weaver, of Eden 
Street. She arrived home from work at noon that day, and com- 
plained of a bad headache. She took two pills that she had been 
accustomed to having, and then said she would have a rest, and 
proceeded upstairs. At 2.30 her married sister went to her room, 
when she complained of feeling rather cold, and asked that some 
more clothes should be placed upon her. Her sister did as 
requested, and then left her. About four o'clock the latter went 
upstairs again to awaken her to go to a party, and was shocked to 
find her lying dead on the bed in the same position that she had 
left her. Two doctors were called in, but could, of course, 
render no assistance. Deceased had evidently passed away in her 
sleep. She had previously had good health, except that she had 
headaches. It is a curious coincidence that deceased's brother 
aged seventeen, previously died in the same way, about nine years, 
ago, a verdict of heart disease being returned at the inquest. 
An inquest was held by Mr. John Fearnley, Deputy Borough 
Coroner, on Monday afternoon, at the Lamb Inn, Astley Bridge, 
in reference to this death. There was no sign of her having had a 
fit she looked as if only asleep. She had never complained of 
any heart ailment, but she had had headaches previously, for 
which she had taken pills similar to those she used on Saturday. 


Deceased had always been healthy, except having an ulcerated leg 
some time ago. A juror said he saw deceased on Friday, and 
she then looked in the 'pink of condition.' The Coroner was of 
opinion that death arose from sudden failure of the heart's action ; 
but if the jury desired further evidence there might be a post- 
mortem examination. The jury, however, considered this unneces- 
sary, and returned a verdict of ' Natural causes probably heart 
failure.' It transpired at the inquiry that a sister of the deceased 
had also died suddenly, as well as the brother." Bolton Chronicle, 
December 2, 1903. 


"The sudden death of James Studd, a horseman in the employ 
of the Ipswich Corporation, who lived at 29 Fitzroy Street, was 
the subject of investigation by the Borough Coroner, on Monday 
evening, at the Crown Street Church Schoolroom. The deceased 
man was following his ordinary occupation on Saturday up till 
half-past one o'clock, when he left off for the day. From that time 
he did not leave his house, but was quite well. He went to bed 
about a quarter past nine. When his wife followed, a little 
later, he seemed to be asleep. The same was the case when Mrs. 
Studd got up in the morning at eight o'clock, and, thinking her 
husband was in a good sleep, she did not speak to him. When, 
however, she called him to breakfast, and could get no answer, her 
suspicions were aroused. On going upstairs, she looked at him 
and touched him, but he did not move. She therefore called in 
William Flory, who lives close by, and is also employed by the 
Corporation, who confirmed her worst fears, namely, that her 
husband had died in his sleep. Mr. Frank Adams, surgeon, 
attributed death to natural causes, probably heart failure. The 
Coroner having said that after the medical testimony there was 
no need for further evidence, the jury returned a verdict of ' Death 
from natural causes.'" East Anglian Times, December 22, 1903. 


" This evening an inquest was held by Mr. Reece, Cardiff 
District Coroner, on the body of Catherine Pyburn, eighteen years 


of age, of 46 Helen Street. Deceased, who had been a healthy- 
young woman, was suddenly taken ill on the morning of Christmas 
Day. Dr. Corrigan was called in, and found her in an unconscious 
condition, and she died shortly afterwards in an epileptic fit. A 
verdict of 'Death from natural causes' was returned." South 
Wales Daily Echo, December 28, 1903. 


" Yesterday morning a blacksmith named Edward Whelan, aged 
between 40 and 50 years, expired very suddenly at his forge in 
Glasslough Street, Monaghan. The deceased had been working 
all morning, and at about nine o'clock took a vomiting fit. Dr. 
James Henry was soon on the scene, but Whelan, who seemed a 
healthy and robust man, did not rally, and died in a few minutes. 
An inquest was not considered necessary.'"' Belfast Newsletter., 
December 29, 1903. 


"A little girl named Christinia Brown, of Newcombe Street,. 
Newcastle, died suddenly on Wednesday night. She was only 
nine years of age, and was looked upon as a healthy child. But 
whilst playing in the back lane, near her parents' house, she 
suddenly fell to the ground, and on being picked up was found to- 
be dead. At an inquest on the body last night it was stated that 
nothing had ever ailed the girl. The jury returned a verdict to the 
effect that deceased had died from some natural cause, probably 
heart disease." Newcastle Daily Chronicle, January 23, 1904. 


" Yesterday afternoon, a storeman named Joseph Boyd, aged 33 
years, of Howe Street, Bootle, who was in the employ of Eller- 
man's Limited, shipowners, died suddenly on a tramcar in Derby- 
Road. It appears that when he boarded the car at Bankhall he 
was in good health. Shortly afterwards he fainted, and was 
conveyed to the Bootle Hospital, and on being examined by 
Dr. Laird life was found to be extinct." Liverpool Daily 
February 27, 1904. 



" Early yesterday morning, Mr. J. Aird was found dead in bed at 
the Royal George Hotel, Crewkerne. He had given instructions 
for his hot water, which was put outside his bedroom. On the 
1 boots ' going up to the room, about an hour afterwards, he 
found Mr. Aird dead. Deceased travelled for a firm of wholesale 
druggists. He appeared to be in the best of health on retiring 
to rest on Tuesday night." Devon Daily Gazette, April 7, 1904. 

The foregoing are given simply as typical examples 
of a class of cases of which thousands might be cited, 
but it has not been thought necessary to weary the 
reader with the details of further instances. 

While it is not suggested that the foregoing are cases 
of premature burial, yet it is absolutely certain that they 
belong to the category of persons of whom a consider- 
able percentage are liable to such misadventures, unless 
precautions very different from those in vogue are taken 
to prevent them. All medical practitioners allow that 
a man may be half drowned or half dead, and that 
cases of suspended animation occur where the most 
experienced physician is unable to detect the faintest 
indication of breathing or cardiac movement. They are, 
however, quite sceptical as to absolute suspensions of 
life where all the ordinary methods to test its existence 
fail ; and, owing to this scepticism, and the readiness to 
give certificates of death in cases of alleged sudden 
death, have unwittingly promoted premature burials, as 
will appear by the facts quoted in these pages. 


Mr. M. Cooper, in the " Uncertainty of the Signs 
of Death," p. 49, cites from a letter by one William 


Fabri, a surgeon, the opinion that we ..." have 
just reason to condemn the too precipitate interment 
of persons overpowered by lethargies, apoplexies, or 
suffocation of the matrix ; for I know there have been 
some, supposed to be irretrievably cut off by these 
disorders, who, resuming strength and returning to life, 
have raised the boards of their own coffins, because in 
such disorders the soul only retires, as it were, to her 
most secret and concealed residence, in order to make 
the body afterwards sensible that she had not entirely 
forsaken it." These wise counsels were written two 
hundred and sixty-eight years ago, since which time 
thousands of our fellow-creatures have, it is feared, been 
the victims of premature interment, and yet the danger 
then pointed out remains. The Undertakers' and 
Funeral Directors' Journal, the conductors of which 
are laudably anxious to keep their profession from the 
odium of burying people alive, referring to sudden 
deaths and this danger, says, in its issue of January 
24, 1894, under the head of "A Burning Question" : 
" Sufferers from such chronic ailments as are reputed 
to end suddenly are in constant danger from the pre- 
sent state of the law, if they are in the hands of people 
interested in their death." And continues : " Even 
where a medical certificate is obtained, such general 
laxity has entered into proceedings that but little pro- 
tection is thereby afforded to the public. While the 
medical man is bound to state what he believes to be 
the cause of death, he is under no obligation to make 
sure either that the patient is dead at all, or that, if 
dead, he died from a particular disease for which he 
was attending him." 



Dr. Alfred Swayne Taylor, in his standard work on 
*' Medical Jurisprudence," writing of a petition which 
on one occasion was presented to the French Chamber 
of Deputies, wherein the petitioner declared he had 
known six interments of living persons to have taken 
place within a period of eight months, adds that Carre 
notified no less than forty- six cases of premature burial. 
<f Among these, twenty-one persons returned to life at 
the time they were about to be deposited in the earth t 
nine recovered owing to the affectionate attentions of 
their relations, four from the accidental falling of the 
coffins, two from a feeling of suffocation in their coffins, 
three from the puncture of pins in fastening the shrouds, 
and seven from unusual delay in the funerals; and, it is 
added, the decease of all these individuals was officially 

The author, in commenting on the above, says : 
" Statements of this kind can only be received with 
incredulity, since no particulars by which their accuracy 
can be tested are given, . . . but if the account given 
by Carre be true, ... it is doubtful whether greater 
negligence could have been shown than that which is 
here alleged to have occurred on the part of the French 
officials in modern times." 

There is no sufficient ground, as far as one can see, 
for treating the statement of Carre' with " incredulity." 
Had the French authorities troubled themselves to 
investigate these deliberate circumstantially-stated par- 
ticulars furnished by a writer of repute, they could have 
done so ; but evidently this dense atmosphere of " in- 
credulity," which is the very curse of official life and of 


medical orthodoxy, blinded French officialdom to the 
terrible possibilities which their own system of burial 
entailed. One would have thought that their own 
French proverb, // riy a point de fumee sans feu, 
would have warned them of the necessity of careful 
investigation into such striking particulars. 

But, as to the " negligence of French officials," which, 
if true, was manifested by these statements, the English 
author of " Medical Jurisprudence " may be reminded of 
his own admission that not even an "official" is held 
responsible for attestation of death in this country, and 
that probably nine-tenths of the medical certificates of 
death in Great Britain are given without the certifier 
ever personally satisfying himself by a visit of the reality 
of the alleged death. In the face of such a fact, the 
affectation of " incredulity," and the sneer at " the idle 
tales of ignorant and superstitious persons," are con- 
siderably discounted. 


The Medical Times and Gazette, 1859, vol. xviii. y 
p. 256, has the following: 

"We find in an account taken from the 'Boston Medical and 
Surgical Journal' some observations on the heart of a hanged 
criminal, which are remarkable in a moral point of view, as well as 
in their scientific aspect. The man died, it appears, as the phrase 
is, without a struggle ; and, therefore, probably in the first instance 
he fell into a syncope. The lungs and brain were found normal. 
Seven minutes after suspension, the heart's sounds were distinctly 
heard, its pulsations being one hundred a minute; two minutes- 
later they were ninety-eight ; and in three minutes sixty, and very 
feeble. In two minutes more the sounds became inaudible. The 
man was suspended at ten o'clock, and his body was cut down 


twenty-five minutes afterwards. There was then neither sound 
nor impulse. At 10.40 the cord was relaxed, and then the face 
became gradually pale; the spinal cord was uninjured. ... At 
1 1. 30 a regular movement of pulsation was observed in the right 
subclavian vein ; and, on applying the ear to the chest, there was 
heard a regular, distinct, and single beat, accompanied with a 
slight impulse. Hereupon Drs. Clark, Ellis, and Shaw open the 
thorax, and expose the heart, which still continues to beat ! The 
right auricle contracted and dilated with energy and regularity. 
At twelve o'clock the pulsations were forty in a minute; at 1.45 
five per minute. They ceased at 2.45 ; but irritability did not 
entirely disappear until 3.18, more than five hours after suspension. 
'This fact, 3 says M. Sequard, 'demonstrates that in a man, un- 
fortunately, even when syncope exists for some minutes at the 
commencement of strangulation, the ventricles of the heart cease to 
beat almost as quickly as they do in strangulation without syncope/ 
With regard to the moral aspects of this case, the same gentleman 
remarks : ' People will probably be surprised that the body of 
this man should have been opened while the beating of the heart 
was still audible. We will not ask here if the doctors committed 
or not a blamable action ; we will only say that we know them 
personally, and that if they have in part merited the violent re- 
proaches addressed to them, they are, nevertheless, hommes de 
coeiir, who, in an excess of scientific zeal, did not notice that the 
body upon which they experimented was not, perhaps, at the time 
a dead body.' " 

The above is a ghastly instance of how syncope 
that is, the temporary failure of the heart's action- 
simulating death, may lead to the most revolting 
consequences. Let us examine this further. 


The deaths attributed to syncope in the Registrar- 
General's reports for England and Wales from 1888 to* 
1893 are : 



1888 Si/ 896 

1889 939 9 22 

1890 1,237 1,250 

1891 i,355 i.iSoi 

1892 941 943 

1893 848 770 

From 1894 t 1900 we record the total deaths from 
^ Syncope " and the total " Sudden Deaths " where the 
-causes have been unascertained : 



1894 1,564 285 

1895 l^I 301 

1896 1,609 3 1 / 

1897 I j6l3 2O4 

1898 1,471 199 

1899 1,224 212 

1900 883 244 

Syncope, however, is not a disease, though often certified 
as such, but is merely a symptom of certain maladies, or 
a manifestation of suspended animation from unascer- 
tained cause. In Hoblyn's " Dictionary of Medical 
Terms," p. 632, syncope is described as " Fainting or 
swoon ; a sudden suspension of the heart's action, 
accompanied by cessation of the functions of the 
organs of respiration, internal and external sensation, 
and voluntary motion." There appears, therefore, every 
probability that, with careless or ignorant medical prac- 
titioners, syncope is not seldom mistaken for trance, and 
a certificate of death may be given where there is merely 


a suspension and not a termination of life ; and this 
probability is reduced to a certainty when we learn the 
number of premature burials and narrow escapes re- 
ported by Winslow, Bruhier, Koppen, E. Bouchut, 
Lenormand, F. Kempner, Moore Russell Fletcher, 
Gannal, Gaubert, Hartmann, and other recognised 
authorities. Dr. James Curry, Senior Physician to 
Guy's Hospital, and Lecturer on the Theory and 
Practice of Medicine, in the introduction to his " Ob- 
servations on Apparent Death," London, 1815, 2 ed. v 
p. i, says: "The time is still within the recollection 
of many now living when it was almost universally 
believed that life quitted the body in a very few 
minutes after the person had ceased to breathe. Re- 
markable examples to the contrary were, indeed, upon 
record ; but these, besides being extremely rare, were 
generally cases wherein the suspension, as well as the 
recovery of life, had occurred spontaneously ; they were, 
therefore, beheld with astonishment, as particular in- 
stances of Divine Interposition." 


It is believed that the majority of the members of the 
medical profession still entertain the idea that a human 
being is dead when breathing can no longer be detected, 
as in the cases of reported sudden deaths ; and, except 
in those which occur from drowning, or suffocation 
through noxious gases, attempts are very rarely made 
to promote restoration, and, unless they return to life 
spontaneously while above ground, there are good 
reasons to fear that an appreciable number do so under 
ground. The prevailing belief in the existence of 


sudden deaths is one of the chief causes of the terrible 
mistakes that lead to live burials. If this delusive idea 
were removed, those concerned, such as physicians, 
undertakers, relatives, and friends, would treat a person 
who unexpectedly took on the appearance of death as 
one needing careful attention by physician and nurse 
to bring him round to health again, as is usually clone 
in cases of fainting. If trance were understood, doctors 
would be on the lookout for it ; but, as it is not under- 
stood, it is called death, and we bury our mistakes 

Dr. Hilton Fagge, while doubting whether there is 
any foundation for the strong fear which many persons 
entertain of being buried alive after supposed death, 
allows that there is danger in cases of sudden death. 
In his "Principles and Practice of Medicine," Dr. Fagge 
says : " The cases really requiring caution are some 
very few instances of persons found in the streets, or 
losing consciousness unexpectedly and in unusual cir- 
cumstances." 1 

Dr. Leonce Lenormand, in " Des Inhumations Pre- 
cipitees," p. 86, says that medical archives record details 
of a great number of apoplectic cases revived after one, 
two, and three days' apparent death ; and observes that 
the most celebrated physicians, both ancient and modern, 
agree in recommending delay in the burial of persons 
who succumb to this affliction. 

1 In the 3rd ed., by Dr. Pye Smith, the following occurs at p. 817 of 
vol. i., under "Trance": "These are the cases which have led to the 
popular belief that death is sometimes only apparent, and that there may 
be a danger of persons being buried alive ; and it cannot be denied that a 
patient in such a condition might easily be allowed to die by careless or 
ignorant attendants, or might be buried before death." 



Dr. Franz Hartmann, in his "Premature Burial," p. n, 
quotes the following : 

" In the Bukovina, a young woman, in the vicinity of Radautz, 
<iied of spasms of the heart. They waited five days for the 
funeral, because no signs of putrefaction appeared. The clergy- 
man then refused any longer delay, and the final arrangements 
for interment were made. Just as they were about to put the 
coffin into the grave, the sister of the deceased woman, who lived 
at another place, arrived, and begged to be permitted to see the 
dead body. Owing to her entreaties the coffin was opened, and 
as the woman saw the unaltered features of her sister, she asserted 
her belief that the supposed dead was still living. She procured 
a red-hot poker, and, in spite of the remonstrances of those 
present, she touched with it the soles of the feet of the corpse. 
There was a spasmodic jerk, and the woman recovered. The 
most remarkable thing was that the supposed dead woman had 
not been unconscious for a moment, but was able to describe 
afterwards all the details of what had taken place around her, from 
the moment when she was supposed to die up to the time of her 
recovery ; but she had looked upon all that like an unconscious 
spectator, and not experienced any sensation, nor was she able to 
give any sign of life." 

In " Les Signes de la Mort," by Dr. E. Bouchut, 
p. 51, Dr. J. Schmid is cited for the case of a girl, 
seven years of age, who, while playing with her com- 
panions, fell suddenly down (as if struck by lightning), 
and died. There was paleness, absence of pulse, in- 
sensibility to all stimulus. Nevertheless, owing to 
the requests of the distressed parents, the apparently 
hopeless attempts at resuscitation were continued. 
After three-quarters of an hour the girl gave a sigh 
and recovered. 


The Medical Record, New York, 1883, vol., xxiii.^ 
p. 236, contains a paper on " Revivification " (in cases 
of sudden apparent death from heart disease, and in 
the still-born), by S. Waterman, M.D., New York. 

Case I, February, 1880. Mr. B , aged 84, suffered 

from valvular disease of the heart, and likewise from 
Bright's disease. " One morning, while I was sitting 
at his bedside, and in friendly conversation with him, 
he being to all appearance in a very happy mood of 
mind, he suddenly fell back, his eyes became fixed 
and glassy, a deadly pallor crept over his counten- 
ance, respiration and the heart's action ceased simul- 
taneously, and death seemed to have carried him 
off suddenly and unexpectedly. It was this sudden- 
ness of the event that impelled me to make efforts at 
revivification. Two nephews of Mrs. B , who were 
fortunately in the house, were brought under requisi- 
tion, and, under my direction, systematic artificial 
movements were carried on for nearly thirty minutes, 
when one deep inspiratory effort was made by the 
patient himself. Thus encouraged, we redoubled our 
efforts for ten minutes more ; other inspiratory efforts 
followed in quicker succession ; the heart began to 
respond. Hardly audible at first, it acquired force and 
momentum ; it could now be felt at the wrist ; the 
deadly pallor passed away, the eyes lost their glassy, 
fixed aspect, sighs and groans could be heard, twitch- 
ings of the muscles of the arm and fingers could be 
distinctly felt, and the appearances of death made 
way for reanimated conditions. He lay unconscious 
for more than ten hours, respiration being hurried, 
and breathing stertorous, the heart's action wild and 


irregular. During the night he was delirious and 
restless ; toward morning all untoward symptoms 
subsided, and a quiet sleep followed the extreme rest- 
lessness. . . . He died six weeks afterwards, under 
symptoms of uraemic toxication. During these six 
weeks he had several other attacks one very prolonged 
and almost fatal in which artificial respiration was 
resorted to with the same success." 


The editor of the Manchester Criterion, December 1 1 , 
1895, says: "Many cases of sudden death have been 
entombed who were really alive, so far as the union of 
the body and soul is concerned. Sudden disappearance 
of life is very common, due to excessive weakness or 
a partial cessation of the heart's action ; and doctors 
should be very chary in giving death certificates until 
it has been ascertained that decomposition has ensued. 
Many object to this delay, and on the approach of an 
indication of death, or apparent death, often hurry the 
body to the grave. We know of a young lady, for 
whom the shroud was bought, and the crape fastened 
on the door, who was restored to life." 


Professor Alexander Wilder, M.D., in " Perils of 
Premature Burial," p. 16, says : " In this country 
(America), however, the peril of interment before death 
has actually taken place is very great. For years past 
it has been a very common occurrence for persons in 
supposed good health to fall down suddenly, with every 
appearance of having died. We do not regard sudden 
15 - 


death with terror, as it is so often painless, and exempts 
the individual from the anxiety and other unpleasant 
experiences which so often accompany a lingering 
dissolution. But there is a terrible liability of being 
prostrated by catalepsy, the counterpart of death, under 
such circumstances that those who have the body in 
charge will not hesitate about a prompt interment." 

" The difficulty of distinguishing a person apparently 
dead from one who is really so has, in all countries 
where bodies are interred precipitately, rendered it 
necessary for the law to assist humanity. Of several 
regulations made on this subject, a few of the most 
recent may suffice such as those of Arras in 1772 ; of 
Mantua in 17/4; of the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 
1775 ; of the Senechaussee of Sivrai in Poitou in 1777 ; 
and of the Parliament of Metz in the same year. . . . 
These edicts forbid the precipitate interment of persons 
who die suddenly. Magistrates of health are to be in- 
formed, that physicians may examine the body; that 
they may use every endeavour to recall life, if possible, 
or to discover the cause of death."-- Encyclopaedia 
Britannica, quoted by John Snart in " Apparent Death," 
1824, pp. 81, 82. 



THE ancient philosopher Democritus averred that there 
was no certain sign of the cessation of life. With this 
view many authorities have since coincided. Certainly, 
no one sign is in itself sufficient proof of death, unless 
it be that of putrefaction. It is rather by a combination 
of signs that the fact may be ascertained prior to the 
putrefaction stage ; but how far the investigator may be 
misled will be seen in the following pages. 


There exists a common belief that if breathing and 
pulsation cease for only a brief period it will be impos- 
sible for consciousness to be recovered, and a trifling 
experiment, such as feeling the pulse at the wrist, or 
holding a mirror to the face, is sufficient to create the 
belief in the popular mind that death has really taken 

" Lend me a looking-glass; 
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone, 
Why, then, she lives." King Lear, act v., scene 3. 

But whilst it would appear presumptuous to attempt to 
doubt or deny a theory so widely accepted by both the 
lay and medical world, yet numerous well-attested facts 
conclusively show that such vital actions may be sus- 
pended, and may even resist the most rigorous tests 
known to science, only to be followed by the recovery 
of the sleeper. 


Dr. S. Weir Mitchell l describes the following : 
" I saw, very many years ago, a handsome girl, twenty 
years of age, from Cincinnati, who had spells of appa- 
rent death, if I may use such a term. One of these I 

had the good fortune to see, and, indeed, to cause 

The young lady happened to be particularly sensitive 
to odours, and even discussion about the subject would 
induce an attack. Hystero-epilepsy in this case had 
given place to ' death spells,' as her friends called them. 
She said to me: ' I am going to have an attack; feel my 
pulse. In a few minutes I shall be dead!' The pulse,, 
which just before was about 100, was now racing and 
quite countless, while the irregularity and violence of 
the heart's action seemed inconceivable. With the in- 
terest of a hysterical woman in her own performances, 
she said to me: 'Now, watch it; you will be amazed.' 
This certainly was the case. Within a few minutes the 
pulse began to fall in number, and, as well as I can 
recall it, in some fifteen minutes was beating only 40. 
Then a beat would drop out here and there, the pulse 
meanwhile growing feebler, until I could no longer feel 
it nor hear the heart. In this state of seeming death- 
white, still, without breathing or any perceptible cir- 
culation this girl lay from two to four days. In this 
time there were spells of a few minutes during which 
the heart beat again furiously and irregularly, as was 
also the case when she revived." 

Sir B. W. Richardson relates a case observed in 1869 

1 " Lectures on Diseases of the Nervous System, especially in Women.'" 
Second edition, 1885, p. 245. 


by Dr. Jackson, of Somerby. A man was struck by 
lightning while driving; he reached his home in a state 
of great prostration, in which he lay for a long time, 
and then sank into such complete catalepsy that he 
was pronounced to be dead, and was laid out as a 
corpse. He actually heard the sound of his own 
passing bell, and by a desperate effort moved one of 
his thumbs, thus attracting the attention of the women 
around him. He recovered, and lived for some time. 
One of the most distinguished physicians in London 
informed the author that, being called in to decide a 
case of apparent or real death, he had applied the 
stethoscope and failed to detect the faintest pulsation 
in the heart, and yet the woman recovered. The 
danger of premature burial he believed to be very real 
and by no means an imaginary one, and his opinions 
were well known in the profession. 


It has been deemed a sure sign of death, when 
for a considerable period no physical movement takes 
place ; and also when the lower jaw falls directly 
afterwards. There are, however, fallacies connected 
with this. Many physical changes may take place 
after death consequent upon muscular contraction or 
relaxation, as well as by the generation of gases ; and 
the jaw may be fixed as in strychnine poisoning. 
Upon the other hand, in certain cataleptic conditions 
movements are quite imperceptible for considerable 

Even electric stimulation, one of the tests of life 
mentioned by Sir B. W. Richardson in his list quoted 


on page 232 is not to be relied upon, as electric 
excitability usually lasts for some hours after death. 

Again, concerning clenched jaws, the Lancet, 1870, 
vol. i., p. 436, quotes a statement by A. de Labordette, 
Chirurgien de 1'Hopital de Lisieux, in a letter to the 
Secretary of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution : 

" I have collected manifold observations relating to 
persons drowned or asphyxiated, in whose case con- 
traction of the jaws was remarked, and who were 
subsequently restored to life." Dr. Brown Sequard 
concurred in this, and declared further that such 
contraction is rather a sign of life than of death. 

With these contradictions, the mobility test may be 
considered worthless. 


This is perhaps the least satisfactory test, the 
custom of holding a mirror before the mouth, already 
referred to, being quite untrustworthy. 

Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson, in his paper on 
" The Absolute Signs and Proofs of Death," in the 
Asdepiad, No. 21 (1889), vol. vi., p. 6, says: 

" About the existence of respiratory movements 
there is always some cause for doubt, even amongst 
skilled observers ; for so slight a movement of res- 
piration is sufficient to carry on life, at what I have 
in another paper designated ' life at low tension/ 
that the most practised eye is apt to be deceived." 

" The cessation of the indications of respiratory 
function, although useful in a general sense, is not 
by any means reliable. It is quite certain that in 


poisoning by chloral, and in catalepsy, there may be 
life when no external movement of the chest is 
appreciable." Ibidem, pp. 13, 14. 


" Equal doubt attends the absence of the arterial 
pulsations and heart sounds. It is quite certain that 
the pulses of the body, as well as the movements 
and sounds of the heart, may be undetectable at a time 
when the body is not only not dead but actually 
recoverable." Ibidem, p. 14. 

Bouchut found that his original statement made 
to the Academy of Science, to the effect that an 
interruption of the action of the heart lasting for two 
minutes was a certain proof of death, was incorrect. 
He thinks the heart should be listened to for half- 
an-hour. Dr. Brouardel, in commenting upon this, 
says 1 : "You cannot listen to a heart for half-an-hour 
continuously. Try to do so ; in five or six minutes 
you will hear buzzing and murmurs of all sorts, and 
at last you will hear the beating of your own heart. 
. . . . The absence of the beats of the heart may 
be considered as a sign of apparent death, but not 
of real death." 

In a review of several works. on the " Signs of Death " 
in The British and Foreign Medical and Chirurgical 
Review, vol. xv. [1855], p. 74, W. B. Kesteven writes: 
" M. Josat has recorded several instances wherein 
newly-born children have been most carefully examined 
during several minutes without the detection of the 

1 "Death and Sudden Death," p. 15. 


slightest cardiac sound or movement, and yet these 
have rallied and lived. M. Depaul has collected ten 
similar instances. M. Brachet has recorded 1 an instance 
of a man in whom neither sound nor movement of 
the heart could be heard for eight minutes, and who 
nevertheless survived. Another adult case is mentioned 
by Dr. Josat as having been witnessed by M. Girbal, 
of Montpellier. . . . Sir B. Brodie and others have 
described children born without hearts. The circulation 
is maintained at one period of human life without 
the aid of the heart. It is, besides, quite consistent 
with the facts observed in hysterical and other con- 
ditions of the nervous system, that the action of the 
heart, like that of other muscles, should be so extremely 
feeble as not to be cognisable by any sound or impulse, 
and yet it may have sufficient movement slowly to move 
the blood through the system, whose every function and 
endowment is suspended and all but annihilated. In 
cases of catalepsy, and of authentic instances of apparent 
death, the respiratory muscles have not been seen to 
move, yet inspiration and expiration however slowly 
and imperceptibly must have taken place." 


By rigor mortis is meant that condition of rigidity 
which sets in after death, and which is frequently of 
so marked a character that it is impossible to flex the 
limbs, and the body may be lifted like a plank of 
wood. It may, however, be so slightly marked as to 
escape the most careful observation. In exhaustive 

^Bulletin Therap. fifed., tome xxvii., p. 371. 


illnesses, or after great fatigue, rigor mortis appears 
early and does not last long, but in the case of persons 
dying while in good health its onset is delayed and 
its duration much longer. Its causes and mode of 
production are practically unknown. 

Dr. Roger S. Chew observes : " Rigor mortis is a 
condition that seldom or never supervenes in the hot 
weather in India, and is often a feature of catalepsy." 
In persons dying of sunstroke, the rigidity comes on 
very late. When a corpse is kept in a warm and 
moist atmosphere, rigor mortis is usually early and short. 

The danger of mistaking the rigidity of a cataleptic 
condition for the rigidity of death has been pointed 
out by Ebenezer Milner, M.D. Edin., L.R.C.S.E., in the 
Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, 1850, vol. 
Ixxiv., p. 330, where he says, " Patients labouring under 
an intense and prolonged paroxysm of catalepsy have 
been supposed to be dead, and have been buried 
alive"; and, in speaking of severe cases, says, "The 
stiffness of the limbs accompanying this intense form 
of trance supervenes at once, and lasts as long as the 
paroxysm continues." 


This was considered at one time of such importance 
that the French Academy awarded a prize for its 
discovery. Its actual value has been well gauged by 
Edwin Haward, M.D. Edin., F.R.C.S. Eng., in the 
Lancet of June 10, 1893, p. ip*f:-*fif) u^ \^0l| 

" The diaphanous test consists in taking a hand of a 
supposed dead person, placing it before a strong arti- 
ficial light, with the fingers extended and just touching 


each other, and then looking through the narrow spaces 
between the fingers to see if there be there a scarlet 
line of light. The theory is that if there be such a 
line of scarlet colour there is some circulation still in 
progress, and therefore evidence of vital action, whilst if 
there be no illumination, then the circulation has ceased, 
and death has occurred. The illustration I am about to 
give indicates, however, that this test must be received 
with the utmost caution. The facts run as follows : 
I was called in January last to visit a lady seventy-three 
years of age, suffering from chronic bronchitis. She 
had often suffered at intervals from similar attacks 
during a period of twenty-five years. The present attack 
was very severe, and as she was obviously in a state of 
senile decrepitude her symptoms naturally gave rise to 
considerable anxiety. Nevertheless she rallied and 
improved so much that after a few days my attendance 
was no longer required. I heard nothing more of this 
lady until February 6 a period of three weeks when 
I was summoned early in the morning to see her 
immediately. The messenger told me that she had 
retired to bed in the usual way, and had apparently died 
in the night, but that she looked so life-like there was 
great doubt whether death had actually taken place. 
Within half-an-hour I was by her bedside ; there was 
no sign of breathing, of pulse, or of heart-beat, and 
the hands, slightly flexed, were rather rigid, but the 
countenance looked like that of a living person, the eyes 
being open and life-like. I believed her to be dead, and 
that the rigidity of the upper limbs indicated commenc- 
ing rigor mortis ; but this curious fact was related to 
me by a near relative, that once before she had passed 


into a death-like state, with similar symptoms, even to 
the rigidity of the arms and hands, from which state she 
had recovered, and after which she had always experi- 
enced the direst apprehension of being buried alive. 
Her anxiety, it will be easily conceived, was readily 
communicated to her relatives, who urged me to leave 
nothing undone for determining whether life was or was 
not extinct. Under the circumstances I suggested that 
Dr. (now Sir) Benjamin Ward Richardson, who has 
made the proofs of death a special study, should be 
summoned. He soon arrived, and submitted the body 
to all the tests in order. ... Of the nine tests, 
eight distinctly declared that death was absolute ; the 
exception, the fluidity of the blood, being a phenomenon 
quite compatible with blood preternaturally fluid and at 
a low temperature, even though death had occurred. 
There now remained the diaphanous test, which we 
carried out by the aid of a powerful reflector lamp, 
yielding an excellent and penetrating light To our 
surprise the scarlet line of light between the fingers was 
as distinct as it was in our own hands subjected to the 
same experiment. The mass of evidence was of course 
distinctly to the effect that death was complete ; but, to 
make assurance doubly sure, we had the temperature of 
the room raised and the body carefully watched until 
signs of decomposition had set in. 

" The results of these experimental tests were satis- 
factory, as following and corroborating each other in 
eight out of the ten different lines of procedure ; but 
the point of my paper is to show the utter inadequacy 
of the diaphanous test, upon which some are inclined 
entirely to rely. Sir Benjamin Richardson has reported 


an instance in which the test applied to the hand of 
a lady who had simply fainted gave no evidence of 
the red line ; she therefore, on that test alone, might 
have been declared dead. In my case the reverse was 
presented ; the body was dead, whilst the red line 
supposed to indicate life was perfectly visible. Hence 
the test might possibly lead to a double error, and 
ought never of itself to be relied upon. 

"It is a question worthy of consideration whether 
the colouration observed was due to the fluid state of 
the blood after death ; it is not unreasonable to suppose 
so, but I prefer merely to offer the suggestion without 
further comment." 

Orfila, " Medicine Legale," vol. i., p. 478, fourth 
edition, observes : 

" This sign can be of no use, because it is easy to 
prove that the fingers of corpses placed between the 
eye and the flame of a candle are transparent, even 
when this experiment is made one or two days after 


In the fourth (and last) edition of his able and most 
instructive work on " Cremation," Sir Henry Thompson 
admits " that there is but one really trustworthy proof 
that death has occurred in any given instance, viz., 
the presence of a manifest sign of commencing decom- 
position. This condition is always ascertainable, at all 
events to the professional eye, and it should always be 
verified before a certificate of death is signed." 

This view is corroborated by those who are fitted to 
speak with authority on the subject. Dr. Roger S. 
Chew, of Calcutta, whose experiences have been already 


referred to, says : " Numerous experiments have been 
suggested as means of ascertaining whether a body is 
really dead or whether the animation is temporarily 
suspended ; but, though these suggestions may col- 
lectively yield a correct diagnosis, still they are valueless 
when separately considered, and cannot compare with 
the ' putrefaction test.' " 

Dr. Hilton Fagge, in his " Principles and Practice of 
Medicine," vol. i., p. 19, writing of cases where great 
uncertainty exists as to whether life is extinct or merely 
suspended, says: 

" / believe that the only sign of death which is both 
certain to manifest itself in the course of a few days, and 
also absolutely conclusive and infallible, is the occurrence 
of putrefaction, which is generally first indicated by 
discolouration of the surface of the abdomen. And in 
any case admitting of doubt, the coffin should not be 
closed until this has shown itself." (Italics ours.) 

This question has aroused much interest also in 
America. In an article in the Medical Examiner,. 
Philadelphia, vol. vi., p. 610, the writer says: "A 
recent French reviewer in the Gazette Medicale closes 
a survey of the differences between real and apparent 
death by the following remarks : ' Experience,' says he, 
' has shown the insufficiency of each of these signs, 
with one exception putrefaction. The absence of 
respiration and circulation, the absence of contractility 
and sensibility, general loss of heat, the hippocratic 
face, the cold sweat spreading over the body, cadaveric 
discolouration, relaxation of the sphincters, loss of 
elasticity, the flattening of the soft parts on which the 
body re.sts, the softness and flaccidity of the eyes, the 


opacity of the fingers, cadaveric rigidity, the expulsion 
of alimentary substances from the mouth all these 
signs combined or isolated may present themselves in 
an individual suffering only from apparent death.' " 

Dr. Gannal, in " Signes de la Mort," p. 31, bears out 
this view: 

u I share the opinion of the majority of authors who 
have written on this subject, and I consider putrefaction 
as the only certain sign of death." The author then 
shows that all other signs are uncertain, and adds " that 
it is possible, by taking certain measures, to wait until 
putrefaction is well manifest, without injuring the public 
health." If the attending medical practitioner could 
always be relied upon to look for any such combination 
of signs as above suggested, there would be much less 
danger of premature burial than at present almost 
everywhere prevails; but personal investigation obliges 
the author deliberately to declare that these are looked 
for only in a comparatively few instances. 

" EccJiyuwsis, or post-mortem stains," writes Dr. Chew, 
" are sometimes of value, but frequently they do not 
appear, even though there are strong evidences of putre- 
faction having set in, and in some cases this cadaveric 
lividity, as it is termed, may be the result of violence 
received before animation was suspended, and, the vital 
spark not having been extinguished though the body 
was apparently dead, ecchymosis had asserted itself as 
a process of life, and not death." 

Dr. Franz Hartmann, whose monograph 1 has excited 

1 " Premature Burial : An Examination into the Occult Causes of 
Apparent Death, Trance, and Catalepsy." By Franz Hartmann, M.D. 
Second edition. (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co. One shilling.) 


much attention both in the English and American 
Press, observes: 

" Apparent death is a state that resembles real death 
so closely that even the most experienced persons 
believe such a person to be really dead. In many 
cases not even the most experienced physician, coroner, 
or undertaker can distinguish a case of apparent death 
from real death, neither by external examination nor 
by means of the stethoscope, nor by any of the various 
tests which have been proposed by this or that writer, 
for all those tests have been proved fallible, and it is 
now useless to discuss them at length, because many of 
the most experienced members of the medical profession 
have already agreed that there is no certain sign that a 
person is really and not apparently dead, except the 
beginning of a certain stage of putrefaction. All other 
tests ought to be set down as delusive and unreliable." 


Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson read a paper before 
the Medical Society of London on " The Absolute 
Signs and Proofs of Death," published (in 1889) in 
No. 21 of the Asclepiad. The circumstance which 
originated his investigation was a case of the revival of 
an apparently dead child immediately before the funeral. 
Dr. Richardson has seen persons apparently dead, and 
presenting all the signs of death, but who were really 
living. Amongst these he cites the following: 

" A medical man found dead, as it was presumed, 
from an excessive dose of chloral. To all common 
observation this gentleman was dead. There was no 
sign of respiration; it was very difficult for an ear so 


long trained as my own to detect the sounds of the 
heart; there was no pulse at the wrist, and the tem- 
perature of the body had fallen to 97 Fahr. In this 
condition the man had lain for some hours before my 
arrival; and yet, under the simple acts of raising the 
warmth of the room to 84 Fahr. and injecting warm 
milk and water into the stomach, he rallied slowly out 
of the sleep, and made a perfect recovery." 

Medical practitioners frequently assert that the 
signs of death are quite easy and impossible to mis- 
take. Dr. Richardson, who has had the best of reasons, 
as already shown, for observation and investigation, 
holds a different opinion, and enumerates the signs of 
death as follows : 

(1) Respiratory failure, including absence of visible 
movements of the chest, absence of the respiratory 
murmur, absence of evidence of transpiration of water- 
vapour from the lungs by breath. 

(2) Cardiac failure, including absence of arterial 
pulsation, of cardiac motion, and of cardiac sounds. 

(3) Absence of turgescence or filling of the veins on 
making pressure between them and the heart. 

(4) Reduction of the temperature of the body below 
the natural standard. 

(5) Rigor mortis and muscular collapse. 

(6) Coagulation of the blood. 

(7) Absence of signs of rust or oxidation of a bright 
steel blade, after plunging it deep into the tissues. (The 
needle test of Cloquet and Laborde.) 

(8) Absence of red colour in semi-transparent parts 
under the influence of a powerful stream of light. 


(9) Absence of muscular contraction under the stimu- 
lus of galvanism, of heat, and of puncture. 

(10) Absence of red blush of the skin after subcutaneous 
injection of ammonia ( Monti verdi's test). 

(n) Putrefactive decomposition. 

Sir Benjamin sums up as follows : 

"If all these signs point to death if there be no 
indications of respiratory function ; if there be no signs 
of movement of the pulse or heart, and no sounds of the 
heart ; if the veins of the hand do not enlarge on the 
distal side of the fillet ; if the blood in the veins contains 
a coagulum ; if the galvanic stimulus fails to produce 
muscular contraction; if the injection of ammonia causes 
a dirty brown blotch the evidence may be considered 
conclusive that death is absolute. If these signs leave 
any doubt, or even if they leave no doubt, one further 
point of practice should be carried out. The body 
should be kept in a room, the temperature of which has 
been raised to a heat of 84 Fahr., with moisture diffused 
through the air; and in this warm and moist atmosphere 
it should remain until distinct indications of putrefactive 
decomposition have set in. 

The Medical Press and Circular of October 2Oth r 
1897, commenting upon the above, says: "It is 
obvious from this that Sir B. W. Richardson, who 
was admittedly a very high, if not the greatest, 
authority on the subject, was of opinion that there 
is only one absolute sign of death, and that there is 
more or less risk where this is not waited for. In 
his own case he left strict instructions with his family 
that after supposed death his body was not to be 


removed until this unequivocal test was manifest ; and 
his wishes were religiously observed." 


In the Royal Decree issued by the Government for 
examining the dead in Wurtemberg, dated January 24, 
1882 (Dienst- Vorschriften fur Leichenschauer, Stuttgart, 
1885), various signs and experiments for enabling the 
official inspector of deaths to ascertain if actual death . 
has taken place are laid down. Among these are : 

(1) "The cessation of sensibility may be assumed 
if, on raising the eyelid, the pupil remains unaltered 
when a lighted candle is held close to it ; or if pungent 
odours, such as those derived from onions, vinegar, 
volatile ammonia, or by severe friction of the chest, 
arms, or soles of the feet, the application of mustard, 
or burning tinder, or if sealing-wax dropped upon the 
chest produces no reaction, and particularly if in the 
latter case the skin does not blister. 

(2) " The stoppage of the circulation of the blood, 
apart from the absence of heart-beating, if, after tying 
a tight bandage around the arm, the veins do not 
swell up, upon the hands being firmly gripped ; also 
if, upon pricking the lips, no blood escapes ; further- 
more, if, on holding the hand in front of a bright 
light (the diaphanous test), the finger-tips are no 
longer translucent as in the living." 

Nor should the inspector ever neglect to examine 
the heart to ascertain the complete absence of all 
sound, and to test the absence of breath by other 


The rescript further adds that these experiments 
" may not furnish absolute proof of death," and 
describes what further proceedings to institute. These 
are referred to in this volume in the chapter devoted 
to Death-Certification. 



An editorial note in the Lancet, January 29, 1887, 
p. 233, shows the difficulty of distinguishing real from 
apparent death : " It was only last year that we 
commented in our columns upon the ' signs of death/ 
drawing attention to the more important criteria by 
which a skilful observer may avoid mistaking cases of 
so-called suspended animation from actual decease. 
Quite recently two instances have been recorded, in 
which, if report be true, it would seem there is still 
room for maturing the judgment upon the question 
herein raised. At Saumur a young man afflicted with 
a contagious disease apparently died suddenly. His 
body was enshrouded and coffined, but as the under- 
taker's men were carrying the * remains ' to their last 
resting-place they heard what they believed to be a 
knocking against the coffin-lid, and the sound was 
repeated in the grave. Instead of testing at once the 
evidence of their senses, they, in accordance with 
judicial custom, sent for the Mayor, in whose presence 
the lid was removed from the coffin. Whereupon, to 
the horror of the spectators, it was observed that the 
dead man had only just succumbed to asphyxia. The 
above narrative seems on the face of it too ghastly to 
be true, especially as the occupant of the coffin must 
have been shut up in a space containing oxygen in 


quantity totally inadequate to sustain an approximation 
to ordinary breathing. But in cataleptic and similar 
states the organic functions are reduced to the lowest 
ebb, and history records several instances in which, 
for a time at least, the determination of the living state 
was a matter of uncertainty. In our issue of the I5th 
inst, p. 129, the reader will find an account of ' Post- 
mortem Irritability of Muscle,' in which the pheno- 
menon was manifested in a marked degree t\vo hours 
after death from a chronic wasting disorder a condition 
which favours early extinction of vital action in muscle. 
It may be argued, then, with some show of reasonable- 
ness, that it is quite possible for the heart to stand 
still, as it were, and yet retain the power of action, 
although experience tells us but little on the question 
as regards the human subject. Experiments on the 
lower animals, however, show that over-distention of 
the right cavities of the heart causes cessation of 
cardiac contraction, and that relief from the distention 
may be followed by resumption of the function of 
contractibility. It must not be forgotten that an 
analogous condition is witnessed at times in patients 
suffering from capillary bronchitis or other physical 
states underlying acute distension of the right heart ; 
for, in these cases, venesection is not uncommonly 
instrumental in arresting the rapidly failing cardiac 
contractions. The second case of apparent death 
alluded to above happened in ' the land of big things/ 
An inhabitant of Mount Joy, Paramatta, was believed 
to be dead, and his supposed remains were about to 
be committed to the earth, when a mourning relative 
startled the bystanders by exclaiming, ' I must see my 


father once more ; something tells me he is not dead. 1 
The coffin was taken from the grave to the sexton's 
tool-house, and there opened, and was found to contain 
a living inmate, who justified the presentiment of his 
son by ' slowly recovering.' As no mention is made 
in either case of the period that elapsed between the 
occurrence of apparent death and the body being 
placed in the coffin, or of the time during which the 
encasement lasted, special and minute criticism is 
uncalled for. Enough has been said on the subject to 
emphasize the exhortation, ' Get knowledge, and with 
all thy getting get understanding.' " 


The British Medical Journal, of September 28, 1895, 
in a leading article on the " Signs of Death," says : 

" The question of the possibility of the interment of 
living beings has recently been exercising the minds of a 
portion of the public, whose fears have found expression 
in a series of letters to some of the daily papers. It is a 
matter of regret that so much irresponsible nonsense 
and such hysterical outpourings should find a place in 
the columns of our great daily press. No attempt at 
the production of evidence in support of their beliefs 
or fears has been made by the majority of writers, 
whilst the cases mentioned by the few are either the 
inventions of the credulous or ignorant, or are destitute 
of foundation. It cannot be said that the few medical 
men who have joined in this public correspondence 
have either contributed any useful information or have 
seriously attempted to allay the fears of the public. One 
medical gentleman managed to earn for himself a cheap 


notoriety by employing, with very scanty acknowledg- 
ment of the source, copious extracts from Dr. Gowers' 
article on ' Trance ' in Ouain's ' Dictionary of Medicine/ 

" The possibility of apparent death being taken for 
real death can only be admitted when the decision of 
the reality of death is left to ignorant persons. We are 
quite unprepared to admit the possibility of such a 
mistake occurring in this country to a medical practi- 
tioner armed with the methods for the recognition of 
death that modern science has placed at his disposal. 
Moreover, even by the ignorant the reality of death can 
only be questioned during the period preceding putre- 
faction. During this period various signs of death 
appear which, taken collectively, allow of an absolute 
opinion as to the reality of death being given. To each 
of these, as a sign of death, exception may perhaps be 
individually taken, but a medical opinion is formed from 
a conjunction of these signs, and not from the presence 
of an individual one." 

The writer must surely have overlooked the able 
treatises by Winslow, Kempner, Russell Fletcher, 
Bouchut, Hartmann, Gannal, and others, supported 
by evidence in the aggregate of thousands of cases 
of premature burial, or narrow escapes, or have for- 
gotten the dreadful cases which have appeared from 
time to time in the columns of the British Medical 
Journal itself. Commenting upon the case of a 
child nearly buried alive, this medical authority in 
its issue of October 31, 1885, under the head of 
" Death or Coma ? " sensibly refers to some of the 
difficulties in distinguishing apparent from real death 
as follows : 


" The close similarity which is occasionally seen to 
connect the appearance of death with that of exhaustion 
following disease was lately illustrated in a somewhat 
striking manner. An infant, seized with convulsions, 
was supposed to have died about three weeks ago at 
Stamford Hill. After five days' interval, preparations 
were being made for its interment, when, at the grave's 
mouth, a cry was heard to come from the coffin. The 
lid was taken off, and the child was found to be alive, 
was taken home, and is recovering. Such is the pub- 
lished account of the latest recorded case of suspended 
animation. We need not now attempt a dissertation on 
the physical meaning of coma. It is well known that 
this condition may last for considerable periods, and 
may at times, even to the practised eye, wear very much 
the same aspect as death. In the present instance, its 
association with some degree of convulsion may easily 
have been mistaken by relatives, dreading the worst, for 
the rigid stillness of rigor mortis. This is the more 
likely since the latter state is apt to be a transient one 
in infants, though it is said to be unusually well marked 
in death from convulsions. One cannot, however, help 
thinking that the presence of the various signs of death 
was not, in this case, very carefully inquired into. It is 
hardly possible that, had the other proofs as well as that 
of stiffening been sought for, they would have been 
missed. // is true that hardly any one sign short of 
putrefaction can be relied upon as infallible. In actual 
death, however, one may confidently reckon on the 
co-existence of more than one of these. After a period 
of five days, not one should have been wanting. Besides 
rigor mortis, the total absence of which, even in forms of 


death which are said not to show it, we take leave to 
doubt, the post-mortem lividity of dependent pares affords 
sure proof, as its absence suggests a doubt, of death. 
Then there is the eye, sunken, with glairy surface, flaccid 
cornea, and dilated insensitive pupil. Most practitioners, 
probably, are accustomed to rely upon stethoscopic 
evidence of heart-action or respiration. These alone, 
indeed, are almost always sufficient to decide the 
question of vitality, if they be watched for during one 
or two minutes. There is no information as to whether 
the child so nearly buried alive was seen by a medical 
man. It is difficult to believe that, if it had been, some 
sign of life would not have been observed. Still, the 
case is a teaching one, even for medical men, and warns 
us to look for a combination of known tests where any 
doubt exists as to the fact of death." The italics are 


Prof. Alex. Wilder, M.D., in " Perils of Premature 
Burial," p. 20, says : " The signs of total extinction 
of life are not so unequivocal as many suppose. The 
apparent cessation of respiration and circulation do 
not afford the entire evidence, for the external senses 
are not sufficiently acute to enable us to detect either 
respiration or circulation in the smallest degree com- 
patible with mere existence. Loss of heat is by no 
means conclusive ; for life may continue, and recovery 
take place, when no perceptible vital warmth exists." 

M. B. Gaubert, in " Les Chambres Mortuaires 
d'Attente," p. 187, Paris, 1895, says: "One of the 
most celebrated physicians of the Paris hospitals, 


according to Dr. Lignieres, declares that, out of twenty 
certified deaths, only one presented indubitable charac- 
teristics of absolute death." 

The difficulty of diagnosis which in many cases must 
be allowed renders the obligation and necessity for a 
radical change in our methods of treating the supposed 
dead a very urgent one. Medical writers, whilst ad- 
mitting the unsatisfactory nature of the current practice 
of medical certification, allege that the remedy lies 
with Parliament to make compulsory a personal 
medical inspection of the dead, and to allow a fee 
as compensation for the trouble. This, however, would 
be very far from meeting the difficulty. How many 
general practitioners would be willing to submit half- 
a-dozen, say, of the eleven tests of death formulated 
by Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson, in any given case, 
and if willing, how many, having regard to the fact 
that these tests are not taught in the Medical Schools, 
and form no part of the usual medical curriculum, 
would be competent to make them with the requisite 
skill ? In most of the Continental States there are 
State-appointed surgeons to examine the dead, medecins 
verificateurs, and in some of these Wurtemberg, for 
instance the official is obliged to examine the corpse 
several times before his certificate is made out. But 
notwithstanding this careful official inspection, cases 
of premature burial and narrow escapes are telegraphed 
by Renter and Dalziel every now and then to the 
English Press, as we have seen, and additional details, 
with the names and addresses of the victims, are 
furnished by responsible special correspondents. 

The best proof that one can give of the uncertainty 


of the signs of death is the great divergence of opinion 
amongst medical experts. Dr. Gannal in " Signes de 
la Mort," Paris, 1890, p. 27, observes: "If any of 
these signs had presented characters of absolute 
certainty, it is unquestionable that the unanimity of 
authors would have recognised it ; now, there is none. 
One sign held to be good by some, is declared bad by 
others." Dr. Gannal affirms with iteration that there 
is only one unequivocal sign and proof of dissolution 
decomposition. All authorities agree that whatever de- 
gree of doubt attends the ordinary appearance of death, 
none dispute that this amounts to a demonstration. 


The Lisbon correspondent of the Daily Illustrated 
Mirror, on March 15, 1904, details a strange case which 
occurred at a small village called Montouro, in northern 
Portugal : 

" An old villager died, and, after having been pre- 
pared for burial, a nephew of his, who was a barber, 
was called in at night to shave him, as is customary 
here. The supposed corpse was merely in a cataleptic 
trance, and as soon as the barber put cold water on his 
face he sat up and began to talk wildly. The barber 
was so terrified that he became raving mad, and, rushing 
screaming from the house, called upon the villagers to 
see the miracle which he had worked." 

When standing round the bed of a sick patient, re- 
duced to a state of coma or suspended animation, to 
which death is the expected termination, as soon as 
the doctor utters the fatal words " all is over," no one 
present thinks of doubting the verdict, or putting it 


to the test Mr. Clarke Irvine, who has had a wide 
experience, writing in the Banner of Light, December 
14, 1895, Boston, U.S., says: 

" I have known of hundreds of deaths in my experi- 
ence, and never have I known of any instance wherein 
a bystander has doubted save once, and then the person 
supposed dead was revived, and is now living out in 
Colorado. The mere accident of a stranger coming in 
just previous to the enclosing in a coffin prevented the 
man from the awful fate of burial alive, so far as we 
can see. 

" In one other, the supposed dead man came to life 
a little before the time set for his funeral, by the 
accident of someone seizing hold of his foot ; he is 
still living, and a resident of this country. The case 
was widely published in the newspapers after he was 
interviewed by a reporter in Chicago, where the 
rescued man was visiting at the time of the Great 
Fair. He is known as Judge William Poynter. I 
saw him a few days ago, and have heard him relate 
the experience. 

" The case of the little girl who was rescued while the 
funeral was in progress, at St. Joseph, Missouri, I have 
already contributed to The Banner. These people were 
saved by a mere chance; how many have passed under- 
ground forever, of whom nothing was ever suspected ! 
All through the country people are dying or apparently 
dying, or falling into death-like trances daily, and being 
placed in their coffins as a matter of course, and hurried 
to and into their graves, as of course also and in the 
very nature of things it must be and must have been 
that hundreds upon hundreds have been and are being 


consigned to that most awful of all the dooms possible. 
The horror of the thing is simply unspeakable." 


The following are extracts from the Police Regulations 
for the inspection of the dead and the prevention of 
premature burial in Bavaria, issued by the Royal 
State- Ministry for Home Affairs: 


In public hospitals, penitentiaries, charitable or other similar 
homes or institutions, the duty of inspection falls upon the 
physician in chief. 

Outside these institutions the inspectors must be chosen, in the 
first instance, from among physicians, after them surgeons, former 
assistants of military hospitals, and lastly, in default of such, from 
lay people. The latter must, however, be of undoubted respecta- 
bility, and, before their appointment, must be properly instructed 
by the district physician, and subjected from time to time to an 


As a rule the inspection of dead bodies must be made once if 
by doctors, and twice if by laymen. In communities which possess 
a mortuary a second inspection has to be made, even though the 
regular inspection has previously been made by doctors or laymen. 


The first inspection has to be made as soon as possible after 
death, and, where practicable, within twenty-four hours, and in 
cases described under 6, sec. 2, at least before removal of the 
body to the mortuary. 

The second inspection must take place just before burial. 


The body, until the arrival of the inspector, must be left in 
an undisturbed position, with the face uncovered, and free from 
closely-fitting garments. 


The instructions of the inspector, for the resuscitation of a 
body suspected of apparent death only, are to be followed most 


The inspector has to give a certificate of corpse inspection 
confirmatory of his inspection, but he must only issue the same 
if he has fully ascertained the actuality of death. 


(i) As a rule the bodies must not be interred before the lapse 
of 48 hours, but not later than 72 hours after death. 

The police authorities may, however, at the recommendation 
of the corpse inspector, exceptionally grant permission for the 
burial before the expiration of 48 hours if a post-mortem dis- 
section has taken place, also if decomposition has set in, and if 
on account of lack of room the body has to be preserved in an 
overcrowded habitation. 

APPENDIX to the Police Instructions as to Corpse 
Inspection and Time of Burial, of 2Oth 
November, 1885. 


The purpose of corpse inspection is to prohibit the conceal- 
ment of deaths by violent means or resulting from medical 
malpractices ; to detect infectious diseases, and the establishment 
of correct death lists ; and particularly to prevent the burial of 
people only apparently dead. For this purpose each corpse is to 
be closely examined on the first inspection as to any signs of 
death, both in the front and the back of the body. 


The inspectors have primarily to establish the actuality of 
death by observing and notifying all the symptoms accompanying 
or following the decease. 



Indications of death may be noted : 

(1) If there is no indication of any pulsation noticeable, either 
in the region of the heart, at the neck, at the temples, or the 

(2) If the eyelids when pulled asunder remain open, and the 
eyes themselves appear sunken into their sockets, dulled, and 
lustreless, also if the eyeballs feel soft and relaxed. 

(3) If parts of the body are pale and cold, if chin and nose 
are pointed, if cheeks and temples are sunken. 

(4) If the lower jaw hangs down, and immediately drops again 
if pushed up, or if the muscles feel hard and stiff (rigidity). 

(5) If the skin of the fingers held against one another, held 
towards light, do not appear reddish. 

(6) If a feather or burning candle held against the mouth 
shows no sign of motion, or if there is no sign of moisture upon 
a looking-glass held before the mouth. 

(7) If on different parts of the body, particularly the neck, 
back, or posterior, or the undersurface of the extremities, there 
are bluish-red spots (death spots) visible. 

(8) If the skin, particularly at the sides of the stomach, show 
a dirty-green discolouration (decomposition spots). 

The non-medical inspector has to observe at least all the 
symptoms i to 4. 

In doubtful cases the medical inspectors are advised to test 
the muscles and nerves by electric currents. 


If the inspection gives rise to suspicions of apparent death 
(Scheintod), the inspector must (if he is not himself a doctor) 
immediately call for the assistance of a practised physician, so 
as to establish the actual condition, and to adopt the necessary 
measures for resuscitation, as follows : 

(i) Opening of the windows, and warming the room. 


(2) Efforts at artificial respiration. 

(3) Applications of warm mustard-plaisters to the chest and 
the extremities. 

(4) Rubbing with soft brushes, with cloths saturated in vinegar 
or spirit of camphor, also with hot woollen cloths. 

(5) Irritation of the throat with a feather. 

(6) Smelling sal-ammoniac. 

(7) Dropping from time to time a few drops of "extract of 
balm," or similar essences, into the mouth. 

Unless medical aid has meanwhile arrived, the application of 
these measures must be continued until the apparently dead 
comes back to life, and begins to swallow, in which case he 
ought to have warm broth, tea, or wine, or until there is 
absolutely no doubt as to the total ineffectiveness of all attempts 
at reanimation. 



THE differences observed in the length of time that 
persons have remained in this condition depended, 
doubtless, upon the constitutional peculiarities of the 
patients such as strength or weakness or upon the 
nature of the disease from which they may have 
suffered. Struve, in his Essay, pp. 34-98, says " that 
it depends upon the proportion of vital power in the 
individual. Hence children and young persons will 
endure longer than the aged. Also upon the nature 
of the element in which the accident happened, whether 
it contained greater or less proportion of oxygenated 
or carbonic acid gas, or other poisonous vapours. The 
latent vital power seems to be much longer preserved 
when animation has been suspended by cold. A man 
revived after being under snow forty hours. Persons 
apparently dead sometimes awake after an interval of 
seven days, as was the case with Lady Russell. . . . 
In the female sex, the suspension of vital power, 
spasms, fainting fits, etc., originating from a hysterical, 
feeble constitution, are not rare, nor is it improbable 
that the state of apparent death may be of longer 
duration with them ; nay, it may be looked upon as 
a periodical disorder, in which all susceptibility of 
irritation is extinguished." Struve further remarks, 
p. 98, " that the state in which the vital power is 
suspended, or in which there is a want of susceptibility 


of stimuli, consists of infinite modifications, from the 
momentary transient fainting fit to a death-like torpor 
of a day's duration. The susceptibility of irritation 
may be completely suppressed, and the apparently 
dead may be insensible of the strongest stimuli, such 
as the operation of the knife and the effects of a 
red-hot iron." 

M. Josat, in " De la Mort et de ses Caracteres," gives 
the result of his own observations in one hundred and 
sixty-two instances, in which apparent death lasted 

In 7 from 36 to 42 hours. 

20 20 to 36 

47 15 to 20 

58 8 to 15 

30 2 to 8 

The order of frequency of diseases in which these oc- 
curred was as follows: Asphyxia, hysteria, apoplexy, 
narcotism, concussion of the brain, the cases of concus- 
sion being the shortest. 


The length of time a person may live in the grave 
will depend upon similar concomitant conditions ; but, 
all things considered, a person buried while in a state 
of trance, catalepsy, asphyxia, narcotism, nervous shock, 
etc., and in any of the other states that cause apparent 
death without passing through a course of disease, and 
that occur during his or her usual health, will have a 
longer struggle before life becomes extinct than one 
whose strength had been exhausted by an attack of 


sickness. Estimates of the duration of such a struggle 
differ considerably. Some writers believe that "however 
intense, it must be short-lived." As to the prolongation 
of the horrible suffering incident to such tragic occur- 
rences, Dr. Leonce Lenormand, in his"Des Inhumations 
Precipitees," pp. 2-4, observes "It is a mistake to think 
that a living person, enclosed in a narrow box, and 
covered with several feet of earth, would succumb to 
immediate asphyxiation." 1 

Dr. Charles Londe, in his " La Mort Apparente," 
remarks: "It has been calculated that, after one 

1 " Pour se convaincre de 1'erreur cm 1'on tomberait en adoptant cette 
opinion populaire, il suffit de reflechir d'abord qu'un cercueil n'est pas 
exactement moule sur les proportions du corps qu'il contient; que, par 
consequent, tous les intervalles sont remplis d'air respirable, en quantite 
tres-grande, egale a-peu-pres a un cube dont le cute aurait 50 centimetres 
de hauteur. Or, chaque inspiration absorbe environ 1,200 centimetres 
cubes d'air dont 1'oxygene n'est employe dans 1'hematose que pour sa 
cinquieme partie, le reste etant rendu pendant 1'expiration ; il en vesulte 
done que chaque inspiration ne consomme en realite que 240 centimetres 
cubes. L'homme, a 1'etat normal, respire a-peu-pres 800 fois par heure ; 
et, comme un cube de 50 centimetres de cote contient 125,000 centimetres 
cubes, on doit conclure que cette quantite d'air pent suffire a 520 inspira- 
tions normales, c'est a dire a soutenir la vie pendant pres de trois quarts 
d'heure. Mais, d'un autre cote, il est demontre, en botanique, que 1'air 
filtre dans la terre; celui contenu dans le cercueil peut done en partie se 
renouveler. On doit necessairement tenir compte de la nature du terrain 
ou le cercueil a etc depose; s'il est sec, leger ou sablonneux, il laissera 
penetrer, circuler pour, ainsi dire, 1'air atmospherique plus facilement, 
que des terreg humides, grasses ou argileuses. Ajoutons enfin, que les 
quantites determinees plus haut pourraient etre reduites de plus de moitie, 
sans causer directement la mort. On voit done qu'un homme peut vivre 
sous terre pendant plusieurs heures, et que ce temps sera d'autant plus 
court que le sujet sera plus plethorique, c'est-a-dire predispose aux con- 
gestions cerebrales, puisque, dans ce cas, ses inspirations seront plus 
larges et plus frequentes." 


quarter of the quantity of atmospheric air contained in 
the coffin approximately estimated at one hundred 
and twenty litres was exhausted, death would set in; 
therefore it is quite certain that, if the shroud is thick, 
and the coffin well closed, and the grave impenetrable 
to the atmosphere, life could not last more than forty 
to sixty minutes after inhumation. But is not that a 
-century of torture ? " 

Some allowance should be made for the persistence 
of the vital energy, which continues after all atmos- 
pheric air is cut off. " Experiments on dogs show 
that the average duration of the respiratory move- 
ments after the animal has been deprived of air is 
four minutes five seconds. The duration of the heart's 
action is seven minutes eleven seconds. The average 
of the heart's action, after the animal has ceased to 
make respiratory efforts, is three minutes fifteen 
seconds. These experiments further showed that a 
dog may be deprived of air during three minutes 
fifty seconds, and afterwards recover without the appli- 
cation of artificial means." 1 

Prof. P. Brouardel, M.D., Paris, in " La Mort 
Subite," p. 35, observes that: " A dog, placed in a 
common coffin, lived five to six hours ; but a dog 
occupies less room than a man, who, in such a coffin, 
when closed, would not have more than one hundred 
litres, so he would possibly live twenty minutes. I 
would not wish anybody to pass twenty such cruel 

" Mr. Bernard, a skilful surgeon of Paris, certified 

1 Report on "Suspended Animation." By a Committee of the Royal 
Med. Chirur. Society, July 12, 1862. 


that, in the parish of Riol, he himself, and several 
other bystanders, saw a monk of the Order of St. 
Francis, who had been buried for three or four days, 
taken from his grave breathing and alive, with his 
arms lacerated near the swathes employed to secure 
them ; but he died immediately after his releasement. 
This gentleman also asserts that a faithful narrative 
of so memorable an accident was drawn up by public 
authority, and that the raising of the body was occa- 
sioned by a letter written from one of the monk's 
friends, in which it was affirmed that he was subject 
to paroxysms of catalepsy." " The Uncertainty of the 
Signs of Death," by Surgeon M. Cooper, Dublin, 1748. 


In a volume entitled " Information Relative to 
Persons who have been Buried Alive," by Heinrich 
Friedrich Koppen, Halle, 1799, dedicated to Frederick 
William III., King of Prussia, and Louise, Queen of 
Prussia, are the nine following amongst many other 
cases : 

" England. Lady Russell, wife of a colonel in the army, was 
considered dead, and only through the tender affection of her 
husband was she saved from living burial. He would not allow 
her to be taken away until decomposition would absolutely force 
him to do so. After seven days, however, in the evening, when 
the bells were ringing, the faithful husband had the triumph to 
see her eyes open and her return to full consciousness." 

"Halle, Germany. Medical Professor Junker, in Halle, a very 
humane man, had a corpse of a suicide by hanging delivered 
for dissection at his college. He was placed on a table in the 
dissecting room, and covered with a cloth. About midnight, 


while the professor was sitting at his writing-table in an adjoin- 
ing room, he heard a great noise in the dissecting room, and, 
fearing that cats were gnawing at the corpses, he went out, and 
saw the cloth in a disturbed condition, and on lifting it up 
found the corpse missing. As all the doors and windows were 
closed, he searched the room, and found the missing one crouch- 
ing in a corner, trembling with cold, in the terror of death. 
He besought the professor for mercy, help, and means for 
escape, as he was a deserter from the army, and he would be 
severely punished if caught. After consideration, the kind 
professor clothed him, and took him out of town at night as 
his own servant passing the guards pretending to be on a 
professional visit, and set him free in the country. Years after- 
wards he met the same man in Hamburg as a prosperous 

" Leipsic. The wife of the publisher, Mathaus Hornisch, died, 
and, according to the custom of the times, the coffin was opened- 
before being put into the ground. The grave-digger noticed 
golden rings on her fingers, and in the following night went to 
the grave to steal them which he found was not easy to do 
when suddenly she drew back her arm. The robber ran away 
frightened, leaving his lantern at the grave. The woman re- 
covered, but could not make out where she was, and cried for 
help. No one heard her ; so she got out of the grave, took the 
lantern, and went to her home. Knocking at the door, the 
servant called to know who it was. She replied : 'Your mistress. 
Open the door ; I am cold, and freezing to death.' The master 
was called, and happily she was restored to her home again, 
where she lived for several years longer." 

" Pavese, Italy, 1787. A clergyman was buried, and noises 
were heard in his grave afterwards. Upon opening the grave 
and the coffin, the man was found alive, and violently trembling 
with fright." 

" Pans, 1787. A carpenter was buried ; noises were heard 
proceeding from his grave, and upon opening it he was found 
to be breathing. He was taken to his home, where he recovered.'"' 


" Stadamhof, 1783. A young, healthy girl, on the way to a 
wedding, had an apoplectic stroke, as it was thought, and fell 
as if dead. The following day she was buried. The grave- 
digger, who was occupied near her grave that night, heard 
noises in it, and being superstitious ran home in fright. The 
following morning he returned to finish a grave he was digging, 
and heard the whining again from the girl's grave. He called 
for help, the grave was opened, when they found the girl turned 
over, her face scratched and bloody, her fingers bitten, and her 
mouth full of blood. She was dead, with evidences of most 
dreadful suffering/' 

"France. Madame Lacour died after a long sickness, and 
was buried in a vault of a church, with all her jewels on. Her 
maid and the sexton opened the coffin the following night to 
steal the jewellery, when some hot wax from the candle they 
were using fell on the woman's face and woke her up. The 
robbers fled in fright, and the woman went back to her home. 
She" lived many years afterwards, and had a son who became a 
priest, who in turn inheriting his mothers nature underwent 
a fate similar to her own." 

"Lyons, France. The wife of a merchant died. Two days 
after her seeming death, and just before the time set for her 
burial, her husband, who, it seems, had some doubts as to her 
death, had her taken from the coffin, and had a scarifier used 
in cupping applied in twenty-five places without bringing any 
blood, but the twenty-sixth application brought her to conscious- 
ness with a scream, and she recovered completely." 

"Cadillac. A woman had been buried in the morning. In 
the following morning whining was heard in her grave. It was 
opened, and the woman was found still alive, but she had 
mutilated half of her right arm and the whole hand. She was 
finally restored." 

The Spectator, October n, 1895, publishes particulars 
of a case of recovery, after three days' interment, in 
Ireland. See pp. 99, 100 in this volume. 


Koppen's investigations led him to observe that 
" human life may appear to come to a stop, and no 
one can say it will not go on again, if time enough 
is allowed for it to do so. This even the most learned 
in medicine cannot explain away or deny ; and the 
greatest precaution should be taken before death is 
declared to exist." 



THE following extracts from French, English, and 
American authorities, who have made the subject of 
premature burial one of patient research, show how 
the dead, or apparently dead, were treated in their 
respective countries at the time they wrote, and when 
no reforms had been instituted. Buffon, who wrote 
more than a century ago, said: " Life often very nearly 
resembles death. Neither ten, nor twenty, nor twenty- 
four hours are sufficient to distinguish real from appa- 
rent death. There are instances of persons who have 
been alive in the grave at the end of the second and 
even the third clay. Why, then, suffer to be interred 
so soon those whose lives we ardently wish to pro- 
long ? Most savages pay more attention to deceased 
friends and relatives, and regard as the first duty what 
is but a ceremony with us. Savages respect their dead, 
clothe them, speak to them, recite their exploits, extol 
their virtues ; while we, who pique ourselves on our 
feelings, do not show common humanity; we forsake 
and fly from our dead. We have neither courage 1-0 
look upon or speak to them ; we avoid every place 
which can recall their memory." 


In his " History of the Modes of Interment among 
Different Nations," pp. 191-193, Mr. G. A. \Valker, 


surgeon, quotes the following observations, as deserving 
consideration, on the subject of premature interment: 
" On many occasions, in all places, too much precipi- 
tation attends this last office ; or, if not precipitation, 
a neglect of due precautions in regard to the body in 
general; indeed, the most improper treatment that can 
be imagined is adopted, and many a person is made 
to descend into the grave before he has sighed his last 
breath. Ancient and modern authors leave us no doubt 
respecting the dangers or misconduct of such precipita- 
tion. It must appear astonishing that the attention of 
mankind has been, after all, so little aroused by an 
idea the most terrible that can be conceived on this 
side eternity. According to present usage, as soon as 
the semblance of death appears, the chamber of the 
sick is deserted by friends, relatives, and physicians; 
and the apparently dead, though frequently living, 
body is committed to the management of an ignorant 
and unfeeling nurse, whose care extends no further 
than laying the limbs straight, and securing her accus- 
tomed perquisites. The bedclothes are immediately 
removed, and the body is exposed to the air. This, 
when cold, must extinguish any spark of life that may 
remain, and which, by a different treatment, might have 
been kindled into flame ; or it may only continue to 
repress it, and the unhappy person afterwards revive, 
amidst the horrors of the tomb. 

" The difference between the end of a weak life and 
the commencement of death is so small, and the un- 
certainty of the signs of the latter is so well established, 
that we can scarcely suppose undertakers capable of 
distinguishing an apparent from a real death. Animals 


which sleep in the winter show no signs of life. In 
this case, circulation is only suspended ; but, were it 
annihilated, the vital spark does not so easily lose its 
action as the fluids of the body, and the principle of 
life, which long survives the appearance of death, may 
reanimate a body in which the action of all the organs 
seems to be at an end. But how difficult it is to de- 
termine whether this principle may not be revived ! 
-. . . Coldness, heaviness of the body, a leaden, livid 
colour, with a yellowness in the visage, are all very 
uncertain signs. M. Zimmermann observed them all 
upon the body of a criminal, who fainted through 
dread of that punishment which he had merited. He 
was shaken, dracfo-ed about, and turned in the same 


manner as dead bodies are, without the least signs of 
resistance, and yet, at the end of twenty-four hours, he 
was recalled to life by means of the volatile alkali." 
Mr. Walker's history was written nearly sixty years 
ago, but the custom he deprecated still continues. 


Dr. Moore Russell Fletcher, in his " Suspended Ani- 
mation and Restoration," Boston, 1890, p. 19, speaking 
of the treatment of the dead in the United States, 
says : " It is doubtful whether modern civilization has 
much advanced the rites of burial, or the means of 
preventing interment before positive death. The prac- 
tice now is, as soon as apparent death takes place, to 
begin at once preparing the body for burial ; the 
relatives and physician desert the room, pack it in 
ice or open the windows, thus banishing any possible 
chance of reviving or resuscitating any spark of vitality 


which may exist. No examination is ever made by 
the physician or the friends to see if there are even 
the faintest signs of life present. Under such circum- 
stances, and with no attempts made at discovering 
whether any signs of life were still present (but a 
hasty burial instead), it is not strange that cases of 
premature interment frequently' occur." 


The Rev. Walter Whiter, in his " Dissertation on the 
Disorder of Death," 1819, p. 328, sensibly observes: 
" The signs marked on the dying and the dead are 
fallacious. The dying man may be the sinking man, 
exhausted by his malady, or perhaps exhausting his 
malady, and fainting under the conflict. Exert all the 
arts which you possess, and which have been found 
not only able to resuscitate and restore the dying, but 
even the dead ; rouse him from this perilous condition 
and suffer him not, by your supineness and neglect 
to pass into a state of putrefactive death." And in 
p. 363 : " If the humane societies had applied the 
same methods in various cases of natural death which 
they have adopted in the case of drowning, and if 
they had obtained a similar success in the cultivation 
of their art, the gloom of the bed of death would be 
brightened with cheering prospects, and would have 
become the bed of restoration and the scene of hope." 


In this connection we may remark that no profession 
is more overcrowded at the present time than that of 
medicine, particularly in the United Kingdom, the 


English Colonies, and the United States. Hundreds 
of young men graduate from medical colleges every 
year, vainly seeking openings for a practice ; and 
some, for the purpose of gaining a livelihood, resort to 
expedients which the Lancet denounces as undignified, 
unprofessional, and disgraceful. Then, again, the num- 
ber of nurses and of those qualifying for this honour- 
able vocation is already in excess of the demand, and 
nursing institutions, under the keen competition to 
which they are subjected, are reducing their charges. 
Now, the care and treatment of the supposed dead is 
an honourable vocation, offering a wide field for the 
instructed physician and the tender and sympathetic 
nurse, and if the appliances for resuscitation were 
always at hand, as they should be, in every hospital, 
town hall, mortuary, police station, and in all large 
hotels and churches, many lives, now subjected to the 
risks of premature burial, would be saved. While in 
London there are two or more houses or retreats for 
the dying, there is no place for the apparently dead 
but a shunned and neglected coffin. The time is not 
far distant when the present mode of treating the 
dead and the apparently dead a practice born of 
superstition and fear, by which many are consigned 
to premature graves will be catalogued amongst the 
barbarisms of the nineteenth century. 




THOSE interested in the movement, if we are right in 
designating the widespread feeling of discontent by this 
name, are occasionally asked if the cases of premature 
burial are numerous, and what estimates, if any, have 
been made of them. We have no means of answering 
these queries. We do not even know the percentage 
of people who are subject to trance, catalepsy, shocks, 
stroke of lightning, syncope, exhausting lethargy, ex- 
cessive opium-eating, or other diseases and conditions 
which produce the various death-counterfeits. Personal 
inquiries over a considerable portion of Europe, America, 
and the East prove that such cases are by no means of 
infrequent occurrence, and this is the deliberate conclu- 
sion of nearly all the authorities cited in this volume. 

Dr. Chambers wrote in 1787 "Every age and 
country affords instances of surprising recoveries, after 
lying long for dead. From the number of those 
preserved by lucky accidents, we may conclude a far 
greater number might have been preserved by timely 
pains and skill." Cited in " Mort Apparente et Mort 
Reelle," p. 17. 

In his introduction to the work above cited, "In- 
formation Relative to Persons who have been Buried 
Alive," by Heinrich Friedrich Koppen, Halle, 1799, the 


author says : " General Staff Medical Officer, D. O. 
in D., states that, in his opinion, one-third of mankind 
are buried alive." This estimate is very obviously 
exaggerated, although many trustworthy experiences 
prove that a certain number of those who die have 
returned to consciousness in their graves. A great 
many are buried alive from ignorance of their relatives, 
who mistake coldness of the body, stoppage of the 
pulse and breathing, the colour of death, spots of 
discolouration, a certain odour, and stiffness of the 
limbs which are only deceptive signs, and not the 
signs of real death. 


The very respectable Dr. Hufeland says : " One 
cannot be too careful in deciding as to life or death, 
therefore I always advise a delay of the funeral as 
long as possible, so as to make all certain as to death. 
Xo wonder those who are buried alive, and who 
undergo indescribable torture, condemn those who 
have been dearest to them in life. They will have to 
undergo slow suffocation, in furious despair, while 
scratching their flesh to pieces, biting their tongues, 
and smashing their heads against the narrow houses 
that confine them, and calling to their best friends, 
and cursing them as murderers. The dead should 
not be buried before the fourth day ; we even have 
examples that prove that. Eight days or a fortnight 
is too soon as there have been revivals as late as 
that. I say everyone should respect those who only 
seem to be dead. They should be treated gently, and 
kept in a warm bed for thirty-six hours." 


Mr. John Snart, in his "Thesaurus," pp. 27, 28, 
London, 1817, says: "The number of dreadful catas- 
trophes, arising from premature interment, 
that have been discovered only, or have transpired to 
man, above ground, both in ancient and modern times, 
conveys to every reflecting mind the fearful thought 
that they are but a sample (per synecdochen) out of 
such an incalculable host, perhaps one in a thousand." 


Professor Froriep, quoted in Kempner's volume, 
says that " In 1829, arrangements were made at the 
cemetery, New York, so as to bury the corpses in 
such manner as not to prevent them communicating 
with the outside world, in case any should have 
awakened to life ; and among twelve hundred persons 
buried six came to life again." In Holland, the same 
author states, of a thousand cases investigated, five 
came to life before burial, or at the grave. The Rev. 
J. G. Ouseley, in his pamphlet on " Earth to Earth 
Burial," London, 1895, estimates "that two thousand 
seven hundred persons at least, in England and Wales, 
are yearly consigned to a living death, the most 
horrible conceivable." 

The Rev. Walter Whiter, in the " Disorder of Death," 
1819, p. 362, calls attention to one of the reports (of 
Humane Societies), where the following passage occurs: 
" Monsieur Thieurey, Doctor Regent of the Faculty 
of Paris, is of opinion that one-third, or perhaps half, 
of those who die in their beds are not actually dead 
when they are buried. He does not mean to say that 
so great a number would be restored to life. In the 


intermediate state, which reaches from the instant of 
apparent death to that of total extinction of life, the 
body is not insensible to the treatment it receives, 
though unable to give any signs of sensibility." 

Maximilian Misson, in his " Voyage Through Italy," 
vol. i., letter 5, tells us "that the number of persons 
who have been interred as dead when they were 
really alive is very great, in comparison with those 
who have been, happily, rescued from their graves." 
He then proceeds to substantiate his statement by 
the recital of cases. 

Dr. Leonce Lenormand, in his able treatise, " Des 
Inhumations Precipitees," has given his deliberate 
opinion that a thousandth part of the human race 
have been, and are, for want of knowledge, annually 
buried alive. 

M. Le Guern, in his " Danger des Inhumations 
Precipitees," which has passed through several editions, 
declares that he has personally met with forty-six 
cases of premature burial in twelve years. He de- 
voted thirty years to the study of the facts, and 
collected a list of two thousand three hundred and 
thirteen cases from various sources. He estimates the 
number of premature burials in France at two per 

On February 27, 1866, the petition of M. Cornot 
was presented to the French Senate by M. de la 
Gueronniere, stating that a comparatively large number 
of persons are annually buried alive. This statement 
he supported by statistics. The author has tried to 
procure a copy of this petition, but these documents 
are not published by the State department. 



The following appears in the Lancet June 14, 1884, 
p. 1104: 

"Sir, That this is an incident that does happen, 
and frequently has happened, has for some years past 
been my firm conviction ; and during epidemics, 
particularly in the East, its possible contingency has 
frequently caused me much anxiety ; and when the 
burial has, for sanitary reasons, had to be very 
hurried, I always made it a rule to withhold my 
certificate, unless I had personally inspected the body 
and assured myself of the fact of death. 

"The reason and necessity for extreme caution in 
such matters were impressed vividly upon me some 
years ago, when visiting the crypt of the cathedral at 
Bordeaux, where two bodies were shown, to whom, I 
think it obvious, this most terrible of all occurrences 
must have happened ; and I am unable to attribute 
the position in which they were found in their coffins, 
and the look of horror which their faces still displayed, 
to any action of rigor mortis or any other post-mortem 
change, but simply and solely to their having awakened 
to a full appreciation of their most awful position. In 
the case of one of these bodies, which was found 
lying on its side, the legs were drawn up nearly to a 
level with the abdomen, and the arms were in such a 
position as to convey the impression that both they 
and the legs had been used in a desperate, but futile, 
attempt to push out the side of the coffin ; whilst 
the look of horror remaining on the face was simply 
indescribable. In the other case, the body was found 


lying on its face, the arms extended above the head, 
as if attempting to push out the top of the coffin. In 
the year 1870 these two bodies were still on view; 
and the attendants used to dwell at some length upon 
the horrors of being interred alive. It appears that 
some years prior to 1870, in making excavations in a 
churchyard in the immediate vicinity of the cathedral, 
the workmen came upon a belt of ground that 
apparently was impregnated with some antiseptic 
material, as all the bodies within this belt, to the 
number of about two hundred, were found to be 
almost as perfect as when they were buried ; of these 
a selection appears to have been made ; and at the 
time I mention about thirty or forty were exhibited, 
propped up on iron frames, in the crypt of the 
cathedral. The impression left on my mind at 
the time was, that if out of two hundred bodies so 
discovered there could be two in which, to say the 
least, there is a strong probability of live interment, 
this awful possibility was a thing that should receive 
more attention than is generally devoted to it I am, 
sir, your obedient servant, 

"H. S. 
" Bayswater, June 10, 1884." 


Protests against the present state of the law in France 
are very frequent. M. Gaubert in " Les ChambreS 
Mortuaires d'Attente," page 80, says : " During the 
monarchy of July petitions have not ceased to come in 
from all parts of France to the Chamber of Deputies." 
For a great number of years, said the Deputy Varin, 


in the sitting of April 10, 1847, every year petitions 
having the same object (the prevention of premature 
burial) are presented to the Chambers and referred to 
the Ministry. What has been done, however? Nothing! 
Again M. Gaubert, on p. 88, referring to resolutions 
of the General Councils of the Departments, observes : 
'" That under the movement of protest, which we are 
examining and find particularly serious, is shown the 
widespread character which it assumes. It is, indeed, 
from all parts of France, and under every form, that 
the sad complaints of the public (for the prevention 
of premature burial) arrive at the office of the Minister 
of the Interior. Those protests adopted by the General 
Councils (of Departments) were not the less numerous 
nor the less conspicuous in important places. Many 
of those who take the trouble to petition or draw up 
resolutions have been prompted to action by melan- 
choly experience of such catastrophes in their own 

M. Gaubert, in " Les Chambres Mortuaires d'Attente" 
{Paris, 1895), PP- 1 93- 1 95> Sa 7 s that in France there are 
in round numbers thirty-six thousand Communes, and 
it is beyond doubt that in every one of these will be 
found cases of premature burial. Communes with a 
population of eight hundred have even several. Dr. 
Pineau has recorded twelve in the single Commune of 
Fontenay-le-Comte in Poitou. In the large towns, 
especially in those which have great hospitals, the pro- 
portion is more considerable. In Paris, Dr. Rousseau, 
verificateur of the dead, in 1853 wrote: " Le medecin 
n'est jamais appele que pour constater la mort 
-apparente." M. Gaubert declares that he would not 


be far from the truth in estimating the number of 
victims to apparent death at eight thousand a year r . 
and asks if France be so rich in population as to be 
able to pay such an enormous tribute. Dr. Josat y 
laureat de 1'Institut, declares that a considerable 
number of people refuse to visit France through fear 
that they might be overtaken by apparent death and 
precipitately buried alive. 


The Undertakers' Journal, July 22, 1889, the editor 
of which has exceptional opportunities of knowing the 
true facts, observes : " It has been proved beyond all 
contradiction that there are more burials alive than is 
generally supposed. Stories of these cases are numer- 
ous. Five cases are reported on p. 85 of this same 
issue, one the wife of a well-known tradesman at St. 
Leonards, medically pronounced dead, but who revived 
before it was too late. Many undertakers could 
describe similar experiences." 

Dr. Roger S. Chew, of Calcutta, in reply to the 
author's inquiries while in India in the early part of 
the year 1896, says: "There are hundreds of instances 
on record where from some cause, as syncope, shock, 
chloroform, hysteria, or other condition not clearly 
understood, the powers of life assumed a static con- 
dition in which oxidation was completely arrested, 
carbonification was held in abeyance, and nitrification 
maintained at positive rest, with the consequence that 
the vital functions have passed into a condition of 
hibernation or apparent death so closely simulating 
real or absolute death as to render differential diagnosis 


an. almost impossibility, and to lead to the interment or 
cremation while yet alive of a body apparently dead." 

Dr. Franz Hartmann, of Hallein, Austria, whose 
book, " Buried Alive," is now being translated into 
French, has collected seven hundred cases of premature 
burial and narrow escapes, several of which have oc- 
curred in his own neighbourhood, and is of opinion 
that the actual danger to every member of the human 
family is of serious proportions, and that the subject 
should not be trifled with. He is a strong advocate 
for cremation as offering the easiest practical method 
of prevention. 

It will have been noticed that whenever the subject 
of premature burial has been introduced in an influential 
journal published in England, the United States, or 
the Continent, one contribution follows another in 
quick succession by persons furnishing particulars of 
cases of trance, catalepsy, and of narrow escapes from 
living burial. The Paris Figaro opened its columns 
some years ago for this subject, and in fifteen days 
received four hundred letters from all parts of France. 
When we consider that nearly all the reported cases 
of resuscitation have come about spontaneously and 
independently of human intervention, it becomes 
evident, owing to our ignorance and apathy, that 
cases of premature burial are far from infrequent, and 
our churchyards and cemeteries, like those examined 
by Dr. Thouret in Paris, are probably the silent 
witnesses of unnumbered unspeakable silent tragedies. 
Immediate legislation is called for to remedy a national 
evil, and to remove the feeling of disquietude which 
-extensively prevails. 



As an illustration of hasty burial in Ireland, the 
following report of a meeting of the Roscrea Guardians 
is taken from the Kings County Chronicle, Parsons- 
town, Ireland, August 27, 1896. 

" Thursday Present : T. Jackson, D.V.C., in the 
chair; L. S. Maher, J. P. ; M. Bergin, J. P. ; W. J. 
Menton, W. Jackson, P. Roe. 

" Mr. Roe You made short work of Jack Ryan at 
the chapel of Knock. He was alive and speaking at 
three o'clock, and buried at six the same day. The 
Master stated that, it being supposed the man died from 
an infectious disease, no person would assist in coffining 
him till a message came asking that he (the Master) 
would send out some of the male inmates, and he sent 
two and had him coffined and interred. Mr. Roe The 
man was not cold when he was buried. Master The 
nun tells me the man had an ounce of tobacco clasped 
tightly in his hands. Chairman What disease had he ? 
Clerk Pneumonia was certified by the doctor. The 
people believed that he had died from an infectious 
disease, and insisted he should be buried immediately, 
Mr. Roe It was certainly short work a man dying at 
three o'clock and buried at six. Master This man was 
married to a woman who was a nurse in the old 
Donoughmore workhouse, and they lived at Drumar,. 
Knock." 1 

reference to the burial customs in Ireland, the King's County 
Chronicle, Parsonstown, September 17, 1896, says : " Young children are 
buried the day after death, but adults are waked for two, and sometimes 
three, nights. 


THE work of disintegration commences directly death 
of the body takes place, and, according to most impor- 
tant researches by M. Megnin in " La Faune des 
Cadavres," is the result of the operations of successive 
colonies of insects "the labourers of death," some 
eight different species in all, which pursue their offices 
according to the particular stage of decomposition for 
which their services are required. 

This valuable work of disintegration is arrested by 
the process of embalming, which consists in the injec- 
tion of various toxic substances; and were this process 
universal it would mean the rather inadvisable preserva- 
tion of immense numbers of human bodies, and, at the 
same time, it would occasionally lead to the defeat of 
justice where death by poisoning had occurred. 

There are those, however, who claim advantages for 
the processes of embalming and dissection. 


An intelligent and observing correspondent writes 
to the author that " under the prevailing custom of 
embalming in vogue in the United States, it is almost 
impossible to have a living burial, as the injection of 
the fluids used in the operation would prevent revival 
and make death certain. Of course, the class denomi- 
nated 'poor folks,' who cannot afford this security, 


have to take their chances with the mysteries of trance 
and other forms of apparent death, as well as with 
ignorance, indifference, and unseemly haste, that seem 
to encompass a man at a time when he is in need of 
the most considerate care." 

Embalming is no doubt preferable, as was thought 
by the late Lady Burton, to the risks, prevailing in 
almost all countries, of burial before careful medical 
examination, for the reason that it is better to be killed 
outright by the embalmer's poisonous injections, or even 
to come to life under the scalpel of the anatomist, than 
to recover underground. A leading New York investi- 
gator has openly declared his belief that a considerable 
number of human beings (supposed by their relatives to 
be dead, but who are really only in a state of death- 
trance) are annually killed in America by the embalming 

The late Miss Frances Power Cobbe was so impressed 
by the fear of being buried alive, for reasons which 
are recited on page 126, that she preferred being killed 
outright by the surgeon's knife, rather than run the risk 
she so much dreaded. Consequently, her will contained 
the following solemn injunction to her medical adviser, 
which was duly carried out by the editor of this work : 
" To perform on my body the operation of completely 
and thoroughly severing the arteries of the neck and 
windpipe, nearly severing the head altogether, so as 
to make any revival in the grave absolutely impossible. 
If this operation be not performed, and its completion 
witnessed by one or other of my executors, and testified 
by the same, I pronounce all bequests in this will to 
be null and void." 



Dr. P. J. Gibbons, M.A., says : " In my mind 
there is no doubt that bodies in which life is not 
extinct are embalmed." 

The Select Committee of the House of Commons 
appointed in 1893 to enquire into the subject of 
Death-Certification, suggest in their report that in 
all cases where it is desired to embalm a dead body 
an authorisation should be obtained from the Home 
Secretary. This is probably intended to prevent 
concealing cases of death by poisoning. The Select 
Committee might very well have extended its recom- 
mendations to the need of verifying the death before 
the embalmer was allowed to exercise his art on the 
subject. Legislation in the United States, where 
embalming is extensively practised among well-to-do 
people, is a matter of urgent necessity. The author 
is aware of only one town where the city ordinance 
enforces such verification before permitting burial. 

In the second edition of Dr. Curry's " Observations 
on Apparent Death," 1815, p. 105, the case is cited of 
William, Earl of Pembroke, who died April 10, 1630. 
When the body was opened in order to be embalmed 
he was observed, immediately after the incision was 
made, to lift up his hand. 

F. Kempner, in " Denkschrift," p. 6, says : 

" Owing to some great mental excitement, the 
Cardinal Spinosa fell into a state of apparent death. 
He was declared to be dead by his physicians, and 
they proceeded to open his chest for the purpose of 
embalming his body. When the lungs were laid 


open, the heart began to beat again ; the Cardinal 
returned to consciousness, and was just able to grasp- 
the knife of the surgeon, when he fell back and died 
in reality." 1 

The Journal de Rouen, Aug. 5, 1837, relates the 
following : 

" Cardinal Somaglia was seized with a severe ill- 
ness, from extreme grief; he fell into a state of 
syncope, which lasted so long that the persons around 
him thought him dead. Preparations were instantly 
made to embalm his body, before the putrefactive 
process should commence, in order that he might be 
placed in a leaden coffin, in the family vault. The 
operator had scarcely penetrated into his chest, when: 
the heart was seen to beat. The unfortunate patient, 
who was returning to his senses at that moment, had 
still sufficient strength to push away the knife of the 
surgeon, but too late, for the lung had been mortally 
wounded, and the patient died in a most lamentable 

Dr. Hartmann in " Premature Burial," p. 80, says : 

" The celebrated actress Mdlle. Rachel died at Paris, 
on 4th January, 1858. After the process of embalm- 
ing her body had already begun, she awoke from her 
trance, but died ten hours afterwards owing to the 
injuries that had been inflicted upon her." 

The Celestial City, New York, June 15, 1889, records 
the thrilling experience of Mrs. Eleanor Fletcher 
Bishop, the mother of the celebrated mind-reader. 

" Anent the unseemly haste exercised by the doctors 

1 Quoted by Dr. Franz Hartmann in "Premature Burial." 


who made the autopsy on her son, the old lady stated 
what terrible perils she at one time barely escaped. 
' I am subject to the same cataleptic trances, in which 
my boy often fell,' said Mrs. Bishop. 'One can see 
and hear everything, but speech and movement are 
paralyzed. It is horrible. For six days, some years 
ago, I was in a trance, and saw arrangements being 
made for my funeral. Only my brother's determined 
resistance prevented them from embalming me, and I 
lay there and heard it all. On the seventh day I came 
to myself, but the agony I endured left its mark for 
ever.' " 


Mr. M. Cooper, surgeon, in his admirable little volume 
" The Uncertainty of the Signs of Death," London, 
1746, p. 196, observes that "those who are dissected 
run no risk of being interred alive. The operation is an 
infallible means to secure them from so terrible a fate. 
This is one advantage which persons dissected have 
over those who are, without any further ceremony, shut 
up in their coffins." 

The following from Ogston's "Medical Jurisprudence," 
p. 370, is a case in point (quoted by the Lancef}; "In. 
October, 1840, a servant girl, who had retired to bed 
apparently in perfect health, was found the following- 
morning, as it appeared, dead. A surgeon who was 
called pronounced her to have been dead for some 
hours. A coroner's inquest was summoned for four 
o'clock, and the reporter and the surgeon who had been 
called in to the girl were ordered to inspect the body 
previous to its sitting. On proceeding to the house for 
this purpose at two o'clock, the inspectors found the girl 


lying in bed in an easy posture, her face pallid, but 
placid and composed, as if she were in a deep sleep, 
while the heat of the body had not diminished. A vein 
was opened by them, and various stimuli applied, but 
without affording any sign of resuscitation. After two 
hours of hesitation and delay, a message being brought 
that the jury were waiting for their evidence, they were 
forced to proceed to the inspection. In moving the 
body for this purpose, the warmth and pliancy of the 
limbs were such as to give the examiners the idea that 
they had to deal with a living subject ! The internal 
cavities, as they proceeded, were found so warm that a 
very copious steam issued from them on exposure. All 
the viscera were in a healthy state, and nothing was 
detected which could throw the smallest light on the 
cause of this person's death." Tidy ("Legal Medicine") 
part i., p. 140, remarks thereon " A mistake had no 
doubt been made in this case, as its warmth was not 
caused by decomposition." 

In the " Cyclopaedia of Practical Medicine," edited by 
Sir John Forbes, M.D., and others, 1847, vol. i., 
pp. 548-9, we find the following: "Nothing is more 
certain than death ; nothing is more uncertain at times 
than its reality ; and numerous instances are recorded 
of persons prematurely buried, or actually at the verge 
of the grave, before it was discovered that life still 
remained ; and even of some who were resuscitated by 
the knife of the anatomist. . . . Bruhier, a cele- 
brated French physician, who wrote on the uncertainties 
of the signs of death in 1742, relates an instance of a 
young woman upon whose supposed corpse an anato- 
mical examination was about to be made when the first 


stroke of the scalpel revealed the truth ; she recovered,, 
and lived many years afterwards. The case related by 
Philippe Pue is somewhat similar. He proceeded to< 
perform the Caesarean section upon a woman who had 
to all appearance died undelivered, when the first incision 
betrayed the awful fallacy under which he acted. . . . 
'There is scarcely a dissecting-room that has not some 
traditional story handed down of subjects restored to 
life after being deposited within its walls. Many of 
these are mere inventions to catch the ever greedy ear 
of curiosity ; but some of them are, we fear, too well 
founded to admit of much doubt. To this class belongs 
the circumstance related by Louis, the celebrated French 
writer on medical jurisprudence. A patient who was 
supposed to have died in the Hospital Salpetiere was 
removed to his dissecting-room. Next morning Louis 
was informed that moans had been heard in the theatre; 
and on proceeding thither he found to his horror that 
the supposed corpse had revived during the night, and 
had actually died in the struggle to disengage herself 
from the winding sheet in which she was enveloped. 
This was evident from the distorted attitude in which 
the body was found. Allowing for much of the fiction, 
with which such a subject must ever be mixed, there is 
still sufficient evidence to warrant a diligent examination 
of the means of discriminating between real and apparent 
death; indeed, the horror with which we contemplate a 
mistake of the living for the dead should excite us to 
the pursuit of knowledge by which an event so repug- 
nant to our feelings may be avoided. ... If life 
depends upon the presence of a force or power con- 
tinually opposed to the action of physical and chemical. 


laws, real death will be the loss of this force, and the 
abandonment of organised bodies to these agents ; 
while apparent death will be only the suspension of 
the exercise of life, caused by some derangement of 
the functions which serve as instruments of vital action. 
This suspension must have been lost for a considerable 
time, if we may judge by the cases collected by 
credible authors, to some of which we have alluded, 
and by the numerous instances of drowned persons 
restored to life after long submersion. From this 
definition of life and death, it would follow that 
putrefaction is the only evidence of real death." 


The historical instance of Vesalius has been ques- 
tioned, but the facts appear to be unrefuted. 

" Andreas Vesalius, successively first physician to 
Charles the Fifth and his son Philip the Second of 
Spain, being persuaded that a certain Spanish gentle- 
man, whom he had under management, was dead, asked 
liberty of his friends to lay open his body. His request 
being granted, he no sooner plunged his dissecting- 
knife in the body than he observed signs of life in it, 
since, upon opening the breast, he saw the heart palpi- 
tating. The friends of the deceased, horrified by the 
accident, pursued Vesalius as a murderer ; and the 
judges inclined that he should suffer as such. By the 
entreaties of the King of Spain, he was rescued from the 
threatening danger, on condition that he would expiate 
his crime by undertaking a voyage to the Holy Land." 

The account of an accident that befell another 
anatomist is taken from Terilli. 


" A lady of distinction in Spain, being seized with an 
hysteric suffocation so violent that she was thought 
irretrievably dead, her friends employed a celebrated 
anatomist to lay open her body to discover the cause of 
her death. Upon the second stroke of the knife she 
was roused from her disorder, and exhibited evident 
signs of life by her lamentable shrieks extorted by the 
fatal instrument. This melancholy spectacle struck the 
bystanders with so much consternation and horror that 
the anatomist, now no less condemned and abhorred 
than before applauded and extolled, was forthwith 
obliged to quit not only the town but also the province 
in which the guiltless tragedy was acted. But though 
he quitted the now disagreeable scene of the accident, 
a groundless remorse preyed upon his soul, till at last 
a fatal melancholy put an end to his life." 

Le Guern, in " Du Danger des Inhumations Preci- 
pitees," chap, iv., p. 24, relates that " The Abbe* Prevost 
was found in the forest of Chantilly perfectly insensible. 
They thought him dead. A surgeon proceeded to 
make a post-mortem; but hardly had he put the scalpel 
in the body of the unfortunate victim before the sup- 
posed corpse uttered a cry, and the surgeon realised the 
mistake he had made. Prevost only became conscious 
to feel aware of the horror of the death by which he 

Dr. Franz Hartmann, in his " Premature Burial," p. 80, 
has the following : 

"In May, 1864, a man died very suddenly at an 
hospital in the State of New York, and as the doctors 
could not explain the cause of the death they resolved 
upon a post-mortem examination, but when they made 


the first cut with the knife, the supposed dead man 
jumped up and grasped the doctor's throat. The doctor 
was terrified, and died of apoplexy on the spot, but the 
' dead ' man recovered fully." 

Brigade-Surgeon W. Curran in his eighth paper, 
entitled " Buried Alive," relates the following : " At 
the Medical College at Calcutta, on the 1st of Feb- 
ruary, 1 86 1," so writes my friend as above, "the body 
of a Hindu male, about twenty-five years of age, was 
brought from the police hospital for dissection. . . . 
It was brought to the dissecting-room about six 
a.m., and the arteries were injected with arsenical 
solution about seven. At eleven the prosector opened 
the thorax and abdomen for the purpose of dissecting 
the sympathetic nerve. At noon Mr. Macnamara 
distinctly saw the heart beating; there was a regular 
rhythmical vermicular action of the right auricle and 
ventricle. The pericardium was open, the heart being 
freely exposed, and lying to the left in its natural 
position. The heart's action, although regular, was 
very weak and slow. The left auricle was also in 
action, but the left ventricle was contracted and rigid, 
and apparently motionless. These spontaneous con- 
tractions continued till about 12.45 p-m., and, further, 
the right side of this organ contracted on the application 
of a stimulus, such as the point of a scalpel, etc., for a 
quarter of an hour longer." Health, May 21, 1886, p. 121. 

Bruhier, in his work, " Dissertation sur 1'Incertitude 
de la Mort et 1'Abus des Enterrements," records a 
number of cases of the supposed dead, who, after burial, 
were revived at the dissecting table, together with fifty- 
three that awoke in their coffins before being buried, 


fifty-two persons actually buried alive, and seventy-two 
other cases of apparent death. This was at a time 
when body-snatching was in vogue, and it is a curious 
comment on our civilization to be compelled to admit 
that a subject of trance or catalepsy during the 
eighteenth or the early part of the last century had 
a better chance of escape from so terrible a fate than 
now, when the vocation of the resurrection-man has 
become obsolete. 



AT the conclusion of a series of inquests at Stepney, 
on September 5, 1903, Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the 
coroner, mentioned an extraordinary case which bears 
immediately upon the subject of death-certification. 

It appears that a little child had been twice attended 
to in the casualty department of the East London 
Children's Hospital for some trifling disorder. A few 
days after the last visit to that institution, the mother 
went to pick the child up, and found it apparently 
dead. Under this apprehension she went to the hospital 
and endeavoured to obtain a death-certificate, but on 
her return home she found the child alive. The 
casualty officer at the hospital, who had found nothing 
sufficiently wrong with the child to account for the 
sudden death, refused a certificate, and reported the 
supposed death to the coroner. The assistant officer of 
the coroner then proceeded to arrange the preliminaries 
for an inquest, but on calling at the parent's house 
found the child alive. 

The recital of this case was the cause of consider- 
able public criticism, and several of the daily news- 
papers dwelt strongly upon the alleged lax and 
perfunctory manner of granting death certificates in 
hospitals. The British Medical Journal, of September 


12, commenting upon this criticism, says: "To 
impose on hospital residents the duty of viewing the 
corpse in every case before granting a death certifi- 
cate would be to disorganise totally every department 
of the hospital on many days of the week. Such a 
duty, moreover, is not imposed on private practitioners, 
who have many more facilities for visiting their 
patients' residences. To expect the visiting out- 
patient staff, too, to view the corpse before granting 
a death-certificate would be. to inflict such a burden 
that no gentlemen would be found willing to take 
such posts." 

In the present case the casualty officer had found 
nothing sufficiently wrong to account for death, "yet," 
continues the British Medical Journal, " had the child 
been seriously ill on his seeing it, and the death was 
reported to him by the nearest relative, the mother, 
he would have had no option allowed him by the 
law but to grant the certificate." 

This sums up very fairly the present state of the 
law as to the granting of death-certificates. It is the 
regular practice of medical men, who have been in 
attendance upon patients seriously ill, to accept the 
statement of the friends that the patient has died, 
and to give a certificate at once without any inspec- 
tion of the body. According to the legal form of 
death - certificate, "printed by the authority of the 
Registrar-General," he is under no obligation to satisfy 
himself that the patient is dead ; indeed, a space is 
left for him to write the words "as I am informed," 
should he not be satisfied about it. And, whilst 
elaborate instructions are given as to the way in 


which the death - certificates are to be filled up, no- 
caution or instruction is given as to the absolute 
signs of death, or what steps should be taken in 
doubtful cases. 

An illustration of this lack of investigation before 
granting a death - certificate occurred a few months 
prior to the case cited above, namely, in July, 1903* 
at Glamorgan Assizes, when a married woman was 
charged with unlawfully obtaining by false pretences 
the sum of 3 los. from the Royal London Friendly 
Society, in respect of the alleged death of her child, 
at Swansea, on i/th June. The Grand Jury made 
some very pertinent observations regarding the con- 
duct of the doctor in granting a certificate of death 
without actual knowledge; and Mr. Justice Channell, 
before passing sentence, offered the doctor an oppor- 
tunity of giving an explanation of the course he had 
pursued. The doctor claimed " the usual practice ' r 
as his excuse, and, after a long colloquy, the judge 
remarked: "I am quite sure, if this custom is universal, 
it is nevertheless wrong." 


A Select Committee of the House of Commons,, 
under the chairmanship of Sir Walter Foster, M.D., 
was appointed on March 27, 1893, to inquire into the 
subject of death-certification in the United Kingdom. 
Fourteen sittings were held, and thirty-two witnesses 
examined. All the witnesses practically agreed as 
to the serious defects in the law, and a number of 
recommendations were made. It was shown that in 
about four per cent, of the cases the cause of death 


was ill defined and unspecified, many practitioners 
having forms specially printed for their own use, in 
which all mention of medical attendance was omitted, 
the object being to enable the doctor to give certificates 
in cases which he has never attended. Numerous 
deaths attended by unqualified practitioners were certi- 
fied by qualified practitioners who had probably never 
seen the cases; and deaths were certified by medical 
practitioners who had not seen the patient for weeks or 
months prior to death, and who knew only by hearsay 
of the deaths having occurred. Deaths were also 
certified in which the true cause was suppressed in 
deference to the feelings of survivors; these last in 
particular were reported to be very numerous. 

In Q. 2552-83 remarkable evidence was produced 
as to the reckless mode of death -certification. One 
medical witness testified that he saw a certificate of 
death, signed by a registered medical practitioner, 
giving both the fact and the cause of death of a man 
who was actually alive at the time, and who lived four 
days afterwards, with facts of even a more startling 
character described as " murder made easy." It was 
pointed out that fraud and irregularity in giving false 
declarations of death are by no means infrequent. 
Various other matters were treated, and the following 
are some of their recommendations: 

1. That in no case should a death be registered without the 
production of a certificate of the cause of death by a registered 
medical practitioner, or by a coroner after inquest, or, in Scotland, 
by a procurator-fiscal. 

2. That in each sanitary district a registered medical practitioner 
should be appointed as public medical certifier of the cause of 


death in cases in which a certificate from a medical practitioner 
in attendance was not forthcoming. 

3. That a medical practitioner in attendance should be required, 
before giving a certificate of death, to personally inspect the body, 
but if, on the ground of distance, or for other sufficient reason, he 
is unable to make this inspection himself, he should obtain and 
attach to the certificate of the cause of death a certificate signed 
by two persons, neighbours, verifying the fact of death. 

4. That medical practitioners be required to send certificates 
of death direct to the registrar instead of handing them to the 
relatives of the deceased. 

5. That a form of certificate of death should be prescribed, and 
that medical practitioners should be required to use such form. 


As a commentary upon the above recommendations, 
the Times of May 23, 1896, publishes the following- 

" At the special meeting of the Metropolitan Counties 
Branch of the British Medical Association, held last 
night at the Museum of Practical Geology, Jermyn 
Street, the subject of an improvement in the present 
procedure in death certification and registration came 
up for discussion. Sir W. Priestley, M.P., president, 
took the chair. 

" Sir Henry Thompson moved the following resolu- 
tion: 'Considering that a Select Committee of the 
House of Commons has in 1893 made an extended 
inquiry into the subject of death certification and 
registration on the plan now followed in this country, 
and has reported that it manifestly fails to accomplish 
the purpose for which it was designed, this meeting is 
of opinion that Her Majesty's Government should be 


respectfully memorialized to bring in a bill as soon as 
possible to give effect to an improved procedure in 
general accordance with the suggestions offered in the 
Committee's report.' He said that, during the last 
twenty years or more, circumstances had not unfre- 
quently occurred to attract public attention to the 
existence of grave defects in the system of death- 
certification adopted in this country, whether regarded 
as a safeguard against criminal attempts on life or 
as a means of forming trustworthy records of disease 
for scientific purposes. From the Registrar-General's 
report for England and Wales for the year 1892, it 
was shown that in fifteen thousand cases of death no 
inquiry had been made as to its cause, and that no 
certificate had been obtained from any source a 
number amounting to nearly three per cent, on the 
total returned for the year. On the same authority it 
appeared that in twenty-five thousand more, or four and 
a half per cent, the cases * were so inadequately certified 
as not to be classifiable,' making together a class of 
seven and a half per cent, in which no evidence of any 
value as to the cause of death existed. After what had 
already been done in the matter, all that appeared to 
be necessary at present seemed to him to be that they 
should forward a memorial to the Home Secretary, with 
a request that he would consider the important work 
which had been already done by the Select Committee, 
and, if he saw fit, take steps to embody their recom- 
mendations in an Act of Parliament, for the purpose of 
giving the country a greatly improved procedure in 
exchange for that at present employed. Dr. Isambard 
Owen, in the absence of Dr. Farquharson, M.P., seconded 


the resolution, and asserted that the State now winked 
at an exceedingly loose system of death-certification, 
since under the present procedure it was possible for a 
medical man to give a death certificate on a patient 
whom he might not have seen for an interval of several 
weeks, and perhaps months. The resolution was sup- 
ported by Dr. Nelson Hardy, Dr. Alderson, Dr. Hugh 
Woods, Dr. Sykes, and others, and was unanimously 


The condition of things mentioned by Sir Henry 
Thompson has improved somewhat in succeeding years, 
but it leaves much to be desired. In reply to Mr. 
Corrie Grant, Mr. Akers Douglas, the Home Secretary, 
stated on the 5th March, 1903, that the numbers of 
deaths of which the causes were not certified are as 
follows : 

1897 ... ... ... 11,103 

1898 ... ... ... 10,441 

1899 10,745 

1900 ... ... ... 11,257 

1901 ... ... ... 9 ; 986 

The matter is dealt with on p. xxix. of the Registrar 
General's Report for 1902. The last published figures 
for 1901 represent slightly under two per cent, of all 
registered deaths. 

The Parliamentary Committee above referred to 
omitted an unexampled opportunity of inquiring into 
the facts of premature burial. They could have sum- 
moned pathologists who had made trance and catalepsy 
a subject of close and searching investigation, as well as 


physicians who, in their practice, have been called in to 
decide upon cases of apparent death, and witnesses up 
and down the country who know of such cases, and 
others who have met with narrow escapes from these 
horrible mishaps. Instead of taking this reasonable 
course of procedure, the Committee contented them- 
selves by examining two or three medical men, who had 
been summoned to give evidence upon the irregularities 
of death certification only, and whose negative and 
apathetic replies showed either that the subject had 
never engaged their attention or that they were 
unwilling to charge any member of the profession with 
a fault so ruinous to his professional reputation as to be 
unable to discriminate between the living and -the dead. 
No questions were submitted to the witnesses as to the 
signs of death, the characteristics of catalepsy, trance, 
asphyxia, syncope, etc., or how to distinguish these from 
death, or with reference to the submission of tests in 
doubtful cases in order to ascertain the fact of death. 
Indeed, it may be observed that the investigation 
regarding a most vital point connected with death- 
certification appears to have entirely escaped the notice 
of this tribunal. 


This Act of Parliament, which involves important 
changes in the law affecting burial authorities, came 
into operation on the 1st January, 1901. That is, 
seven years after the Parliamentary enquiry already 
referred to, and more than four years after the pass- 
ing of the important resolution quoted above. Among 
the clauses are the following : 


i, Consecration ; 2, chapels ; 3, fees ; 4, transfer of powers to 
Local Government Board ; 5, inquiries by Secretary of State ; 
6, protection of unconsecrated burial ground ; 7, obligation of 
incumbent as to burial ; 8, notes of intention to bury ; 9, ap- 
plication of certain provisions of Burial Acts to cemeteries under 
42 and 43 Viet., c. 31 ; 10, boundary fences ; u, meaning of burial 
authority; 12, repeal; 13, short title and commencement. 

All these matters are of undoubted importance, 
but their importance is trifling compared with that of 
seeing that the subject of them is not only apparently 
but actually dead. Attention was called to this 
important oversight in the press while the bill was 
before Parliament; but in spite of this, and of the 
Parliamentary Committee's recommendations, and of 
Sir Henry Thompson's efforts, no change was made 
in the matter of death-certification. 

On March 23 of the same year in which this 
Act came into force, TJie Medical Times deals forcibly 
with the subject, and says : - 

". . . Briefly, our position is this. At present, in this 
country, there is no regular system of examining the bodies of 
persons assumed to be dead before certificates of the cause of 
death are given, and the latter certificate is the sole legal 
requirement to obtain the burial of the body. It is, therefore, 
manifestly possible and, indeed, various cases have occurred 
which prove the possibility that a certificate of the cause of 
death might be quite innocently given by a medical practitioner 
before the patient had actually died. It would be quite sufficient 
in many cases, for example, for the doctor to have seen the 
patient apparently in a moribund state, say, in the morning, and 
a relative to call at his house in the afternoon, announce the 
patient's death, and ask for a certificate, and it would be given. 
It has, indeed, actually happened that, in all good faith, such a 
statement has been made, and a certificate given, while the 
patient was not only not dead, but finally recovered. In the 


next place, it is within the bounds of possibility that such a 
patient, in a comatose state, might be placed in a coffin and 
actually buried without being really dead. The occurrence, in 
short, is possible, and we do not at present desire to press the 
argument further. . . . Suffice it to say that, if the possibility 
of any person being buried alive be admitted, every human 
instinct must demand that measures should be taken to make 
such an occurrence absolutely impossible." 

This important pronouncement by a responsible 
medical journal should give pause to those who are 
given to pooh-pooh and ridicule the subject, and 
should have some weight with members of Parliament 
in urging forward this much needed legislation. 

The London Association for the Prevention of 
Premature Burial has been indefatigable in pressing 
this important matter upon public and Parliamentary 
attention, and a resolution passed by its executive 
council on January 15, 1903, states very succinctly 
the position it takes up : 

" That this council desires to call the attention of urban and 
rural sanitary authorities to the dangers of premature burial 
arising from the absence of a proper system of death -verifica- 
tion. That the fact admitted by the Home Secretary, that over 
eleven thousand persons are annually buried in England and 
Wales without any death-certificate, illustrates the extreme care- 
lessness and haste with which persons apparently dead are con- 
signed to the grave without any adequate inquiry as to the fact 
of death. That the discovery of the fact of live burial, should 
it occur, is almost impossible in the present state of the law, 
which forbids the exhumation of the corpse without the order of 
the Home Secretary. The sanitary and other local bodies are, 
therefore, urged to support a Parliamentary measure for provid- 
ing guarantees against premature burial, whilst facilitating 
exhumation in cases where these guarantees have been omitted." 

As the late Col. Vollum well wrote, just before 


his death, " the core and essence of a protective law 
should consist in the reasonable and systematic 
registration of a certificate of verified death, rendered 
by a qualified physician after his personal examination 
of the body, before the issue of a permit for burial 
or other disposal of the body." 

The carelessness with which a certificate may be 
given in consequence of the existence of a law which 
fails to bind upon a medical practitioner the necessity 
of carefully examining an alleged dead body before 
giving a certificate is illustrated by the following singu- 
lar case, reported in the Times of January 19, 1878: 

" A poor woman lay very ill in her scantily-furnished 
home in Sheffield. The doctor was sent for, and 
came. He at once saw that hers was a very grave 
case, and that she had, as he thought, little chance 
of recovery, even if she could get the nourishment 
her illness required. As he was about to leave, the 
question was put, ' When should we send for you 
again, doctor ?' ' Well/ was the reply, as he looked at 
the poor woman and then at her wretched surround- 
ings, ' I don't think you need send for me again. 
She cannot possibly get better ; and to save you 
further trouble I'll just write you out a certificate for 
her burial.' And he did. After the doctor departed 
the woman women always were wilful got better 
rapidly. She has now completely recovered, and goes 
about carrying her burial certificate with her." 


" In Paris and the large French towns medical in- 
spectors, called medecins verificateurs, are appointed, 


whose business it is to visit each house where a. 
death occurs, and ascertain that the person is really 
dead, and that there are no suspicious circumstances 
connected with his or her decease. More than eighty 
qualified medical men are employed for this purpose 
in Paris. 

' : In the rural districts of France this system is not 
in force ; two witnesses making a declaration to a civil 
officer that a death has taken place is considered 
sufficient. The burial is not allowed to take place 
until at least twenty-four hours after the declaration." 
Blyth: "Dictionary of Hygiene and Public Health." 

Dr. Leonce Lenormand, in his admirable work, " Des 
Inhumations Precipitees," p. 140, accuses the inedecins 
des murts in France with culpable carelessness in the 
exercise of their function, which consists in verifying 
the reality of the death. Instead of making a minute 
examination of the body to ascertain the fact of death, 
this writer says they are content (except in cases of 
death from violence) to merely glance at the body, and 
immediately hand the family the necessary authorisa- 
tion for interment. The inspector knows that if he 
examined every part of the body, as in duty bound, 
he would be accused of barbarism and profanation. 
In France, in spite of medecins v'erificateurs, probably 
more premature burials occur than in any country in 
Europe, except Turkey, immediate burial after real or 
apparent death being the inexorable rule. Dr. Lenor- 
mand attributes the frequency of premature burials in 
France, first of all, to the negligence and prejudices 
of the families of the deceased ; then to the careless- 
ness of the doctors charged by the State with the 


inspection of the dead ; and, lastly, to the imperfection 
of the police regulations. 

The British Medical Journal, January 28, 1893, P- 2O 4 
(Special Correspondence, Paris), writing on this subject, 
says : 

" The 7/th Article of the Code obliges the officier de 
I'e tat civil to visit the death-bed and verify every death ; 
but this Article is a dead letter. The officer in question 
has neither time nor knowledge sufficient to put it in 
practice. In small country places, rarely any precau- 
tions are taken to prevent premature burials. In more 
important villages and towns, the mayors delegate the 
doctors of the locality to verify deaths before burial. 
Throughout the whole of France, it appears that there 
are not fifty towns where the death- verify ing service is 
well organised ; and, on an average, there are from 
twenty thousand to thirty thousand burials without 
previous verification of death. The declaration of two 
witnesses is sufficient, who obtain their information from 
those around the deceased. In Paris, the two mortuaries 
already in existence one at the Montmartre, the other 
at Pere La Chaise are rarely used. The bodies of those 
who die in the streets, from accident or sudden death, 
are taken there when there is no domicile; also, those 
of foreigners who die in lodging-houses. In the course 
of eighteen months the mortuary of Montmartre re- 
ceived five dead bodies, and Pere La Chaise one. 


Extracts from " Regulations for the Domiciliary 
Examination of the Dead in the City of Brussels 
Civil Government (Medical Service)." 


"ARTICLE i. The Medical Service of the Civil Government 
is distributed among the medical heads of divisions, the deputies 
and chiefs of the Department of Hygiene." 

"ARTICLE 5. No interment can take place except after the 
decease has been verified by the doctors of the Civil Govern- 
ment by means of a careful and complete examination of the 

This verification, as well as the identity of the person 
deceased, shall be certified by a prods-verbal [state- 
ment or description, for which a blank is furnished 
"A"], which they shall leave at the house of the 

"ARTICLE 8. They shall notify the officers of the Civil Govern- 
ment, and their superintendents of police, of any infractions of 
the regulation provisions which forbid proceeding with autopsy, 
moulding [making a cast?], embalmment, or putting in a coffin 
the corpse, before the death has been duly ascertained." 

"ARTICLE 9. The verification of the decease of still-born or 
of newly-born infants shall exact a most attentive examination 
on the part of the examining doctors. They shall indicate in 
their report if the infant has died before, during, or after birth ; 
and, in the last case, how long it lived after birth." 

"ARTICLE 10. If they doubt the reality of the death, they 
shall employ, without delay, every means of recovery that science 
suggests under the circumstances. They shall immediately notify 
the visiting doctor, and, in every case, shall prepare the proces- 
verbal of the verification of death only after certainty has been 
established, and, if need be, by repeated visits." 

"ARTICLE n. When a woman has died in a state of advanced 
pregnancy, they shall direct the artificial extraction of the infant, 
supposed to be yet living ; and, in the lack of an attending 
doctor, shall perform it themselves when -necessary." 



The contrast between the laxity at home and the 
regulations laid down by authority in Wurtembtirg, 
Bavaria, and other Continental States, is remarkable, 
and should receive the attention of the Registrar- 
General without delay. 

A Royal Decree, entitled " Dienst-Vorschriften fur 
Leichenhaiiser," for the inspection and burial of the 
dead, promulgated by the King of Wurtemburg, 
January 24, 1884, provides for the appointment of 
medical inspectors of the highest integrity and qualifi- 
cations in every commune, the position being justly 
regarded as one of great responsibility. 

Immediately after a death, the body must under no 
circumstances be interfered with, and must not be 
removed from the death-bed until after the authorised 
inspection. Post-mortems can be made only if the fact 
of death has been previously clearly established. Pre- 
cise instructions are laid down, so that the inspector, 
who is to examine the entire body, may see that the 
various forms of suspended animation are not certified 
as actual death. Amongst these are the following : 

" Section ii. To see that sensibility, pulsation of the heart, 
neck, temples, and forearm, and the breath, have ceased. That 
the muscles of the body have lost their elasticity ; therefore the 
limbs are limp, the face sunken, the nose pinched, the eyes 
sunken, and when the eye-lids are forcibly opened they remain 
so, the lower jaw drops more or less, and drops again when 
pressed upwards. 

"In actual death the body gradually gets colder, beginning 
with the exposed limbs, and in from ten to sixteen hours the 
body will be quite cold. The colour of the face becomes ashy 


pale, and the lips discoloured. The eye loses its brilliancy, and 
is usually dulled by a covering of dried mucus. 

" If all the foregoing symptoms are exhibited, and particularly 
if the deceased was of an advanced age, or if the death was 
caused by severe or long illness, which led to the expectation of 
a fatal result, the fact of death may be safely assumed. 

" But, on the other hand, if part of these symptoms are missing, 
or in cases of pregnancy, or exhaustion in consequence of flooding 
after confinement, or if death occurs under fits, or in violent out- 
bursts of passion, the possibility of counterfeit-death is to be 
taken for granted. 

"Notwithstanding the existence of all the symptoms (signs of 
death) before mentioned, the possibility of apparent death is not 
excluded in cases where the death has occurred after syncope, 
tetanus, suffocation, or in cases of drowning, stroke of lightning,. 
or from a severe fall, or from frost, or in still-born children." 

After detailing instructions as to a variety of experi- 
ments to ascertain whether the death is actual or 
apparent, this Royal Decree proceeds : 

" Section viii. These experiments may, however, not give 
absolute certainty as to the complete extinction of all life. If, 
therefore, the slightest doubt remains as to the reality of death, 
the inspector is to take the necessary precautions for the protec- 
tion of the deceased, by frequent inspections, and the most 
careful examinations, and to obtain the assistance of the nearest 
physician or surgeon, who is to co-operate with him to promote 
resuscitation. If these attempts prove abortive, he must see that 
nothing is done which would be detrimental to reanimation, or 
resumption of life." 

Then follow minute instructions how to proceed 
under the varied circumstances which may have pro- 
duced the symptoms known as apparent death. In no 
case must the burial- certificate be handed over by the 
inspector until he has thoroughly satisfied himself of the 
presence* of unmistakable signs of actual death. 


One cannot help contrasting these carefully con- 
sidered rules with the lax and haphazard methods of 
dealing with the dead and apparent dead both in 
England and in the United States. As a consequence, 
cases of premature burial in Wiirtemburg are of very 
rare occurrence, and sensible people in that country, 
knowing that the danger of premature burial has been 
reduced to a minimum, are not consumed by an ever- 
abiding anxiety, as with us; nor is it the custom for 
testators in Wiirtemburg to give instructions to their 
executors for piercing the heart or severing the jugular 
vein, or some other form of mutilation, as in France, 
Spain, and other countries, where the risks are so 
terribly great. 

The only case of the danger of premature burial that 
has come to the author's notice in Wiirtemburg is 
related by Bouchut, in his " Signes de la Mort," p. 48 : 

"In the village of Achen, in Wiirtemburg, Mrs. Eva 
Meyers, twenty-three years of age, was taken ill 
during an epidemic. Her condition became rapidly 
worse, and she apparently died. They put her into a 
coffin, and carried her from the warm into a cold 
room, there to await burial, which was to take place 
at two p.m. on the following day. Shortly after noon 
on that day, and before the carriers arrived, she 
awoke and made an effort to rise. Her aunt, who 
was present, and who believed that a ghost had taken 
possession of her, took a stick and would have killed 
her, if she had not been prevented by another woman. 
Nevertheless, she succeeded in pushing the body back 
violently into the coffin, after which she indignantly 
went to her room. The patient remained helplessly 


in that condition, and would have been buried if the 
usual hour for the burial had not for some reason 
been changed. Thus she remained for another twelve 
hours, when she was able to gather sufficient strength 
to arise. She still lives, and has paid the charges for 
her funeral, which were claimed by the clergy, the 
bell-ringer, and the undertaker." 


In the United States the subject of death-verification 
has only recently begun to engage public attention. 
The following, at Dover, New Hampshire, appears to 
be the only instance in which reasonable, although not 
altogether adequate, precautions are adopted: 


" SECTION 3. Whenever any person shall die within the limits 
of the city, it shall be the duty of the physician attending such 
person, during his or her last sickness, to examine the body of 
such deceased person before the burial thereof, and to make 
out a certificate setting forth, as far as the same may be 
ascertained, the name, age, colour, sex, nativity, occupation 
whether married or single, duration of residence in the city, 
cause, date, and place of death of such deceased person; and 
it shall be the duty of the undertaker, or other person in charge 
of the burial of such deceased person, to add to such certificate 
the date and place of burial, and, having duly signed the same, 
to deposit it with the city clerk, and obtain a permit for burial; 
and in the case of death from any contagious or infectious disease, 
said certificate shall be made and forwarded immediately; and, 
in each case of a physician so examining and reporting, he shall 
receive of the city a fee of one dollar." 


''SECTION 4. Whenever a permit for burial is applied for, in 
case of death without the attendance of a physician, or it is 
impossible to obtain a physician's certificate, it shall be the duty 
of the city physician to make the necessary examination, and to 
investigate the case, and make and sign a certificate of the 
probable cause of death ; and, if not satisfied as to the cause 
and circumstances attending such death, he shall so report to 
the mayor." 

"SECTION 5 No interment or disinterment of the dead body 
of any human being, or disposition thereof in any tomb, vault, 
or cemetery, shall be made within the city without a permit 
therefor, granted as aforesaid, nor otherwise than in accordance 
with such permit. 

" Xo undertaker, superintendent of cemetery, or other person, 
shall assist in, assent to, or allow any such interment, or 
disinterment, to be made, until such permit has been given as 

" Any person violating any of the provisions of this chapter 
shall be fined not less than ten nor more than twenty dollars." 


Dr. J. Brinclley Tames, in a communication to the 
Medical Times, May 23, 1896, pp. 355-356, calls atten- 
tion to the insufficient safeguards against premature 
burial under the present system of death-certification, 
and observes : " The dread possibility of premature 
interment ever hangs like a gloomy sword of Damocles 
over all our heads, and fearful indeed is the authentic 
record of persons buried alive, who have recovered 
consciousness, too late, alas ! to be rescued from their 
frightful dungeon. How often does our overworked 
we do not say careless practitioner sign the death- 
certificate of a patient whose death-bed he did not 
attend whose corpse he has not visited ? And, even 


assuming him to have done so, and conscientiously too, 
in how many of the fearful cases above alluded to 
have not these formalities proved insufficient, clearly 
suggesting the advisability of a specialist, experienced 
in post-mortem inspection, solely sanctioning interment 
in all cases." 

The Daily Chronicle, London, September 16, 1895, 
in a leading article on the danger of premature burial, 
says : " The truth is, the whole system of certifying 
for burial needs to be reconsidered and reformed, and 
that for other reasons than the danger of entombment 
before life is extinct. We do not want a coroner's 
inquest, with its jury, for every death ; but the doctors 
should be compelled, under severe penalties, to discover 
the certain sign of death before they authorise the 
burial, and to know the cause of death in every case. 
We trust now too much to individuals in a generally 
trustworthy profession, who may not reach the high 
general standard of their class, or may grow listless 
through the indifference wrought by use and wont, or 
who think they can detect the rigor mortis at a glance, 
never having seen the severest form of catalepsy. 
There would be no difficulty in getting Parliament to 
pass a more stringent regulation for death-certificates 
without much discussion, and there is no reason why 
Sir Matthew White Ridley should not turn his attention 
to the matter, and, with such medical advice as the 
Health Department of the Local Government Board 
will be pleased to lend him, propose a necessary little 
bill to the House of Commons next February." 

But nearly ten years have passed away since these 
warning notes were sounded, and still nothing has 


been done by the Legislature to meet the crying evil 
in our midst. Surely it is high time that Parliament 
seriously considered this important question, and took 
steps to safeguard the terrible possibilities, which, 
under the present lax system of death certification 
and examination, might at any moment overtake any 
subject of this realm. 



" THERE is no more any pathognomonic sign to 
determine the moment of death than there is to 
establish the diagnosis of typhoid fever. Just as in 
the latter it is a combination of symptoms observed 
which makes the diagnosis sure, so in the case of 
death it is a collection of signs which gives the 
physician absolute certainty, and he alone can estimate 
their value." Thus spoke Dr. Brouardel during the 
course of his lectures on " Death and Sudden Death," 
delivered to the students of the Faculty of Medicine, 
Paris ; and we have shown with some degree of clear- 
ness in chapter xiii. (" Signs of Death," pp. 219-247) 
that no single evidence of presumed death can be 
absolutely relied upon, and that nothing but the sign 
of putrefaction can afford evidence beyond dispute. 

The learned Dr. Vigne, of Rouen, who won the 
respect of his fellow-citizens during a long and honour- 
able career, was for many years engaged in the study 
of this question, and published the result of his re- 
searches shortly before his death. Convinced that the 
resources of science were insufficient to distinguish 
real from apparent death, he left testamentary instruc- 
tions to provide against his own premature burial. 
(" Des Inhumations Precipitees," p. 83, by Lenormand.) 


The noteworthy provision in the will of the late 
Herbert Spencer, to the effect that " my body shall 
be placed in a coffin with a loose lid easily opened 
from below," implies a sufficiently obvious direction, 
and manifests that the dread of eminent men abroad 
is shared by equally eminent men in this country. 

Dr. Winslow, a French physician, who had on two 
different: occasions very nearly fallen a victim to pre- 
mature burial, having been laid out for dead, chose for 
the subject of his thesis before the Paris Faculty of 
Medicine, " Les moyens les plus propres a reconnaitre 
la realite cle la mort." Dr. Winslow may be said to 
have been the pioneer of a movement in France for 
exposing the danger, and for educating the public into 
the necessity of reforms in the mode of treating the 
apparent dead ; and although his efforts and warnings 
were as of one crying in the wilderness or amongst 
an apathetic people, with a legislature apparently 
uninfluenced either by facts or by reason, they were 
never relaxed. Numerous writers have since confirmed 
the truth of Dr. Winslow's contention by facts within 
their own experience, and it is believed that legislation 
in France cannot be much longer delayed. 

That the risk of premature burial is not an imaginary 
one has been shown by the citation in this volume of 
cases of death-like trance which have baffled the ablest 
of medical experts ; also the instances of numerous 
narrow escapes from this terrible occurrence, and of 
others where the victims were suffocated before timely 
aid could be obtained, most of which are drawn from 
medical sources. The painful reality is also shown by 
the multitude of preventive measures suggested by 


medical authorities, and by the ingenious contrivances 
of those who have made this distressing subject one of 
patient and laborious research. Several of the remedies 
suggested for adoption in cataleptic cases are really 
homicidal, or seriously mutilative ; many of them are 
impracticable, and have been shown by Hufelancl, 
Lenormand, Richardson, Hartmann, Bouchut, Fletcher, 
and Gannal, to be delusive. The merits and demerits 
of some of these methods might be inquired into by 
the appointment of a Parliamentary Committee, or a 
Royal Commission, as a supplement to that appointed 
in 1893, by Mr. Asquith, on Death Certification. 


From time immemorial it has been the custom in 
the East, and even in some parts of the Continent, to 
place women around a dead man's bed to cry and 
howl for the purpose of awaking him should he be 
only apparently dead. Similarly, not only the auditory 
but the olfactory nerves have been submitted to attack, 
by holding beneath the nose the strongest and most 
offensive substances. Pricking the skin with sharp 
instruments has also been adopted, and one savant, 
Josat by name, obtained first prize at the Academy 
of France for the invention of a pair of clawed forceps 
for pinching the nipples of the supposed dead, and this 
method held premier place as a means of distinguishing 
real from apparent death until it was demonstrated that 
subjects under profound hysteria were as indifferent 
to this painfully acute process as the dead. Even 
the eye has been studied with a view to establishing 
a definite conclusion : it has been asserted that, 


providing the lids remain open, the conjunctiva and 
sclerotic will present a characteristic brown hue. And 
a further plan, which created some stir at the time of 
its announcement, consisted in photographing the retina 
of the eye immediately after supposed death, which, it 
was asserted, retained an image of the object last 
gazed upon. But this, and all the preceding tests 
affecting the senses, have proved to be fallacious. 


A good deal of importance has been attached to the 
difference between a blister raised during life and one 
produced after death. Mr. George T. Angell, the 
editor of Dumb Animals, Boston, U.S., whose father was 
pronounced by his physician dead, and returned to con- 
sciousness after preparations for the funeral had been 
made, has repeatedly alluded to the subject in his paper, 
and published preventive suggestions at various times, 
including one from a physician, who, having been called 
to a man who had been dead twenty-four hours, lighted 
a match and applied it to the end of one of the fingers 
of the corpse, when a blister was formed, and, restoratives 
being applied, the man recovered. The physician adds 
the following conclusion: "If you are alive you cannot 
burn your hand without raising a blister; if you were 
dead, and flames should come in contact with any part 
of your body, no blister would appear, and the flesh 
would be burned." 

A similar idea was promulgated in a letter to the 
British Medical Journal, January 18, 1896, under the 
title of " Living or Dead," by J. Milford Barnett, M.D. 
Edin., of Belfast: 


"Burial alive, though of exceedingly rare occurrence, sometimes 
does happen, and calls for increased attention to the means of 
detecting with certainty the presence of vitality, however feeble. 
The ordinary means of deciding the vital question are known to 
all persons. Auscultation may detect the enfeebled heart-beat, 
while the electric battery can elicit any existing muscular con- 
tractility. Conditions of trance are occasionally almost mystical 
in their profundity (Brahmin trance), and a simple and ready- 
to-hand test to decide whether death has occurred is of prime 
importance. We can ascertain whether or not life still lingers 
in uncertain cases by applying (say) to the back of the forearm 
a small stream of boiling water directly from the kettle. If life 
is present, the boiling water will soon and unfailingly raise a 
blister where applied, and the blister will contain fluid, the serum 
of the blood. The production of the serum blister being essen- 
tially a vital process, its production or non-production becomes 
an infallible test, and determines the question. This test, not 
generally known, should be widely proclaimed." 

It is a fact, however, that life may be so torpid and 
inactive as to be unable to respond to the irritation 
of heat or blisters, or even to the application of red- 
hot irons. Upon the other hand, trustworthy authori- 
ties have declared that the phenomenon of a serum 
blister is not limited to life ; a burn may raise a 
blister in a dead body soon after actual death, but 
there will most probably be an absence of areola 
i.e., a red inflammatory ring. The blister test is one 
which has so repeatedly failed that it cannot be relied 


The stethoscope, which is regarded by many medi- 
cal practitioners as an infallible means of preventing 
premature burial, has proved a broken reed in hundreds 
of cases, and can be of use only when applied with 


other tests. (See pp. 223-4.) Dr. Roger S. Chew, of 
Calcutta, writes to me, February, 1896: 

"The British Medical Journal, September 28, 1895, 
tells us that the careful use of the stethescope will 
enable a medical man to distinguish a living from a 
dead body. Auscultation may give startling results, 
and the body yet be absolutely dead. I recollect an 
instance of death from cobra-bite, when, though decom- 
position had set in, the relatives refused to believe she 
was dead, because one of them declared that, though 
he did not see her chest rise and fall, he had distinctly 
heard her sigh. A medical man was called in, applied 
the stethoscope over her thorax, and declared he could 
hear sounds from her lungs, and a peculiar 'sough} 
* sough ' towards the apex of the heart. So far he was 
right, but as the girl had already been dead some 
fourteen hours, and the weather was warm, the sounds 
he heard were those of the escape of the putrefactive 
gases bubbling upward, and unable to find exit, as her 
mouth was closed with a chin-bandage, and her nostrils 
plugged with mucus. To convince the parents that the 
girl was really dead, I offered to perform artificial respira- 
tion, to which end I untied the bandage, prized open 
her jaws, and pressed heavily on her thorax, when some 
of the imprisoned gases escaped, emitting an abomin- 
able odour that brought conviction of the girl being 
beyond all hope. 

" In another case, that of my son, aged two years, 
after a series of brain symptoms and severe clonic 
convulsions preceding an outbreak of confluent small- 
pox, the stethoscope told me, and a medical friend 
who was present, that my little boy had ceased to 


exist ; but a liberal application of ice to his head and 
cardiac region, together with violent friction and 
artificial respiration vigorously employed for forty 
minutes, restored the child to me, and I thanked God 
that I had refused to accept the evidence of the 
stethoscope as final." 


The application of the electric current is a powerful 
restorative agent in cases of suspended animation, if 
judiciously applied. When Ruben Korff invented his 
coil it was urged by many that a coil might be kept 
in every church in order to test each body before 
the funeral ceremony was proceeded with. Sir B. W. 
Richardson attached comparatively great importance 
to this test, but it must be remembered that electric 
excitability will last for some time after death until 
rigor mortis sets in. 

Struve in his essay, " Suspended Animation," p. 151, 
under the head of " Apparent Death From a Fall," 
says : " A girl, three years of age, fell from a window 
two stories high upon the. pavement. Though she was 
considered as lifeless, Mr. Squires, a natural philosopher, 
applied electricity. Almost twenty minutes elapsed 
before the shocks produced any effect. At last, when 
some of the electric force pervaded the breast, he 
observed a slight motion of the heart. The child soon 
after began to breath and groan with great difficulty, 
and after some minutes a vomiting ensued. For a few 
days the patient remained in a state of stupefaction, but 
in the course of a week she was perfectly restored to 


Referring to the subject of premature burial, Dr. W. 
S. Hedley, writing to the Lancet, October 5, 1895, 
says : Forty years ago the subject was investigated 
by Crimotel, twenty years later by Rosenthal, and more 
recently by Onimus. It seems safe to say that in no 
disease, certainly in none of those conditions usually 
enumerated as likely to be mistaken for death, is 
galvanic and faradaic excitability abolished in every 
muscle of the body. On the other hand, electro- 
muscular contractility disappears in all the muscles 
within a few hours after death (generally ninety minutes 
to three hours, according to Rosenthal), its persistence 
varying to some extent with the particular muscle 
examined (i), and with the mode of death (2). There- 
fore, if electro-muscular contractility be present in any 
muscle, it means life or death only a few hours before. 
It is clear that no interment or post-mortem examination 
ought to take place so long as there is any flicker. of 
electric excitability. To me it seems almost equally 
obvious that in all doubtful cases, sometimes in sudden 
death, and often to allay the anxiety of friends, this 
test ought to be applied, and applied by one who is 
accustomed to handle electric currents for purposes of 

The apparatus for applying electrical currents, long 
used by the Humane Society for restoration of the 
drowned, might with advantage be kept at public 
mortuaries, for use in cases of apparent death due to 
other causes, where decomposition has not manifested 
itself. The Weather Bureau at Washington advises 
those who are in the neighbourhood of persons struck 
by lightning to make immediate efforts to restore 


consciousness, because the effect of lightning is to 
suspend animation rather than to produce death. 
Respiration and circulation should be stimulated, and 
the usual remedies for relief in such cases should be 
administered for at least an hour before giving up 
the victim as dead. 

Dr. Moore Russell Fletcher says : " When persons 
without pulse or breathing are found in bed, in the 
field, or elsewhere, treat them in such manner as will 
restore from stroke of lightning, paralysis, or suspended 
animation from catalepsy, trance, or somnambulism, and 
continue the treatment until resuscitation rewards the 
exertions, or decomposition is evident." " Suspended 
Animation," pp. 7, 8. 


Mr. E. E. Carpmael, of the Medical Department, 
Berkeley University, U S.A., recommends, in the 
Morning Post, London, September 19, 1895, the injec- 
tion of strychnine in " a supposed corpse " ; while 
" Medicus," in the Daily Chronicle, September 17, 1895, 
considers that post-mortems " would be to the advan- 
tage of the patient, to his relations, to science, and 
the community at large." No doubt either of these 
plans would prevent live sepulture, by killing the 
cataleptic subject ; while " M.R.C.S.," in Morning Post, 
September 20, says : " Obviously the simplest and 
best proof of death is putrefaction shown chiefly by 
the discolouration of the abdomen." 

A correspondent in the English Mechanic, October 
2 5) ^95) savs : " I have long advised hypodermic 
injection of morphia before placing in coffin for 


burial. Ex Jiypothesi, the vital spark is not supposed 
to have expired, and the circulatory system not finally 
stopped. Hence the hypodermic injection cannot be 

Dr. Donnellan reports a case of the passage of a 
current of one thousand volts through a man, which 
instantly caused coma, dilated pupils, pallor of the 
face, and sweating ; delirium and tonic, alternating 
\vith clonic, spasms followed. The pulse was eighty. 
The respiration, at first stertorous, passed into the 
Cheyne- Stokes type. After the injection, first of 
morphia, and then of strychnia, the patient fell into 
a deep sleep, from which he awoke convalescent. 
" Centralblatt fur die medicinischen Wissenschaften." 


The most remarkable of the hypodermic injections is 
that of Dr. S. Icard of Marseilles, who claims to have 
discovered an infallible test for distinguishing between 
persons actually or only apparently dead. It has 
received the honour of recognition on two occasions 
by the Institute of France (Academic des Sciences). 

The fluid he uses consists of a weak solution of 
Fluorescine, to which he has given the name of Kar- 
minine. This, when sufficiently diluted, ceases to be 
poisonous. If this solution, it is alleged, be injected 
under the skin of a living person, in two minutes the 
skin, especially the mucous membrane, is strongly 
coloured, and the body has the appearance of suffering 
from an attack of acute jaundice. The whole of the 
eyes is said to assume a clear green tinge, the pupil 
almost disappears, and the eye looks as if it were a 


brilliant emerald set in the face. In two hours all 
the phenomena disappear. But in the case of a dead 
man the solution produces no effect. 


A medical correspondent, writing from Dresden, 
August 1 8, 1895, sends the following communication 
concerning the value of artificial respiration : 

" Major J. H. Patzki, Surgeon, U.S. Army, reports 
that in 1882, at St. Augustine, Florida, a lady patient 
of his had an attack of tetanus, caused by a scratch 
upon her foot by a nail while bathing. The convulsive 
symptoms commenced in the muscles of the face, and 
increased in violence in spite of energetic treatment, 
until the fifth day, when the respiratory muscles 
became involved. The breathing was completely sus- 
pended by the spasmodic action, and the radial and 
carotid pulse ceased. The cardiac sounds became 
utterly inaudible to careful stethoscopic examination 
repeatedly employed. The lady assumed all the 
appearances of death, and there was rigor mortis, the 
result of muscular spasm. Artificial respiration was 
resorted to, but not until after the expiration of 
eighteen minutes did the first faint efforts of respira- 
tion, and a feeble action of the heart, become per- 
ceptible. Artificial respiration was continued for an 
hour afterwards, and the life of the patient was saved, 
although the muscular spasms continued to some extent 
for six days. 

"This case is instructive in showing that tetanus, 
when it involves the chest, may produce a state of 

apparent death, by interfering with the respiratory 


and cardiac functions ; and that artificial respiration, 
if persistently employed, may rescue patients so affected 
from the perils of apparent death." 


The following extracts from an instructive but ap- 
parently forgotten article in Dickens' " All the Year 
Round," July, 1869 ( a propos of a pamphlet, " Lettre 
sur la Mort Apparente, les Consequences Reelles des 
Inhumations Precipitees, et le Temps pendant lequel 
peut persister 1'Aptitude a etre rappelle a la Vie," by 
the late regretted Dr. Charles Londe), afford valuable 
suggestions : 

"Suffocation by foul air and mephitical gas is not a rare form 
of death in the United Kingdom. It is possible that suspended 
animation may now and then have been mistaken for the absolute 
extinction of life. Dr. Londe gives an instructive case to the 
purpose. At the extremity of a large grocer's shop, a close, 
narrow corner, or rather hole, was the sleeping-place of the shop- 
man who managed the night sale till the shop was closed, and 
who opened the shutters at four in the morning. On the i6th 
of January, 1825, there were loud knocks at the grocer's door. As 
nobody stirred to open it, the grocer rose himself, grumbling at 
the shopman's laziness, and, proceeding to his sleeping-hole to 
scold him, he found him motionless in bed, completely deprived 
of consciousness. Terror-struck by the idea of sudden death, he 
immediately sent in search of a doctor, who suspected a case of 
asphyxia by mephitism. His suspicions were confirmed by the 
sight of a night-lamp, which had gone out, although supplied with 
oil and wick, and by a portable stove containing the remains of 
charcoal partly reduced to ashes. In spite of a severe frost, he 
immediately had the patient taken into the open air, and kept on 
a chair in a position as nearly vertical as possible. The limbs of 
the sufferer hung loose and drooping, the pupils were motionless, 
with no trace either of breathing or pulsation of the heart or 


arteries ; in short, there were all the signs of death. The most 
approved modes of restoring animation were persisted in for a 
long while without success. At last, about three in the afternoon 
that is, after eleven hours' continued exertion a slight move- 
ment was heard in the region of the heart. A few hours after- 
wards the patient opened his eyes, regained consciousness, and 
was able to converse with the spectators attracted by his resurrec- 
tion. Dr. Londe draws the same conclusions as before namely, 
that persons suffocated by mephitism are not unfrequently buried 
when they might be saved." 

"We have had cholera in Great Britain, and we may have it 
again. At such trying times, if ever, hurried interments are not 
merely excusable, but almost unavoidable. Nevertheless, one of 
the peculiarities of that fearful disease is to bring on some of the 
symptoms of death the prostration, the coldness, and the dull 
livid hues long before life has taken its departure. Now, Dr. 
Londe states, as an acknowledged fact, that patients pronounced 
dead of cholera have been repeatedly seen to move one or more 
of their limbs after death. While M. Trachez (who had been sent 
to Poland to study the cholera) was opening a subject in the 
dead-house of the Bagatelle Hospital, in Warsaw, he saw another 
body (that of a woman of fifty, who had died in two days, having 
her eyes still bright, her joints supple, but the whole surface 
extremely cold), which vividly moved its left foot ten or twelve 
times in the course of an hour. Afterwards the right foot parti- 
cipated in the same movement, but very feebly. M. Trachez sent 
for Mr. Searle, an English surgeon, to direct his attention to the 
phenomenon. Mr. Searle had often remarked it. The woman, 
nevertheless, was left in the dissecting-room, and thence taken to 
the cemetery. Several other medical men stated that they had 
made similar observations. From which M. Trachez draws the 
inference : ' It is allowable to think that many cholera patients 
have been buried alive.' " 

" Dr. Veyrat, attached to the Bath Establishment, Aix, Savoy, 
was sent for to La Roche (Department of the Yonne), to visit a 
cholera patient, Therese X., who had lost all the members of her 
family by the same disease. He found her in a complete state of 
asphyxia. He opened a vein; not a drop of blood flowed. He 


applied leeches; they bit, and immediately loosed their hold. He 
covered the body with stimulant applications, and went to take a 
little rest, requesting to be called if the patient manifested any 
signs of life. The night and next day passed without any change. 
While making preparations for the burial, they noticed a little 
blood oozing out of the leech-bites. Dr. Veyrat, informed of the 
circumstance, entered the chamber just as the nurse was about to 
wrap the corpse in its winding-sheet. Suddenly a rattling noise 
issued from Therese's chest. She opened her eyes, and in a 
hollow voice said to the nurse : ' What are you doing here ? I 
am not dead. Get away with you.' She recovered, and felt no 
other inconvenience than a deafness, which lasted about two 

"The attention of the French Government has been once 
more directed to the subject. The petitioners have requested, 
as a precaution, that all burials for the future should, in 
the first instance, be only provisional. Before filling a grave, 
a communication .is to be made between the coffin and the 
upper atmosphere by means of a respiratory tube ; and the 
grave is not to be finally closed until all hope of life is 
abandoned. These precautions, it will be seen at once, how- 
ever good in theory, are scarcely practicable. Others have 
demanded the general establishment of mortuary chambers, 
or dead-houses, like those in Germany. And not only the peti- 
tioners, but several senators, seem to consider that measure 
the full solution of the problem. Article 77 of the Civil Code 
prescribes a delay of twenty-four hours only, which appears to 
them to be insufficient, since, they urge, it presumes the certainty 
hat death has taken place only after putrefactive decomposition 
has set in. Now, a much longer time than twenty-four hours 
may elapse before that decomposition manifests itself. Deposit, 
therefore, your dead in a mortuary chapel, until you are perfectly 
sure, from the evidence of your senses, that life is utterly and 
hopelessly extinct. 

" Although the French Government is anxious to enforce 
throughout the whole empire the rules carried out in Paris, it is 
to be feared that great difficulties lie in the way. The verifica- 
tion of deaths on so enormous a scale, with strict minuteness,. 


is almost impracticable. But even if it were not, many timid 
persons would say : ' Who is to assure us of the correctness of 
the doctor's observations ? Unfortunately, too many terrible 
examples of their fallibility are on record. The professional 
man is pressed for time. He pays a passing visit ; gives a 
hurried glance ; and a fatal mistake is so easily made ! ' Public 
opinion will not be reassured until you can show, every time a 
death occurs, an irrefutable demonstration that life has departed. 

" M. de Parville now announces the possibility of this great 
desideratum. He professes to place in anyone's hands a self- 
acting apparatus, which would declare not only whether the death 
be real, but would leave in the hands of the experimenter a written 
proof of the reality of the death. The scheme is this : It is well 
known that atropine the active principle of belladonna possesses 
the property of considerably dilating the pupil of the eye. 
Oculists constantly make use of it when they want to perform 
an operation, or to examine the interior of the eye. Now, M. le 
Docteur Bouchut has shown that atropine has no action on the 
pupil when death is real. In a state of lethargy, the pupil, under 
the influence of a few drops of atropine, dilates in the course 
of a few minutes ; the dilatation also takes place a few instants 
after death ; but it ceases absolutely in a quarter of an hour, or 
half an hour at the very longest ; consequently the enlargement 
of the pupil is a certain sign that death is only apparent. 

"This premised, imagine a little camera obscura, scarcely so 
big as an opera-glass, containing a slip of photographic paper, 
which is kept unrolling for five-and-twenty or thirty minutes by 
means of clockwork. The apparatus, placed a short distance in 
front of the dead person's eye, will depict on the paper the 
pupil of the eye, which will have been previously moistened 
with a few drops of atropine. It is evident that, as the paper 
slides before the eye of the corpse, if the pupil dilate, its 
photographic image will be dilated ; if, on the contrary, it 
remains unchanged, the image will retain its original size. An 
inspection of the paper then enables the experimenter to read 
upon it whether the death is real or apparent only. This sort 
of declaration can be handed to the civil officer, who will give 
a permit to bury in return. 



"By this simple method a hasty or careless certificate of death 
becomes impossible. The instrument applies the test, and counts 
the minutes. The doctor and the civil officer are relieved from 
further responsibility. The paper gives evidence that the verifi- 
cation has actually and carefully been made ; for, suppose that 
half an hour is required to produce a test that can be relied 
on, the length of the strip of paper unrolled marks the time 
during which the experiment has been continued. An apparatus 
of the kind might be placed in the hands of the minister or 
one of the notables of every parish. Such a system would 
silence the apprehensions of the most timid ; fears, natural 
enough, would disappear, and the world would be shocked by 
no fresh cases of premature burial." 

The authors have not heard whether this ingenious 
contrivance had been put into practice, or with what 


Various prizes have been offered, and awards made, 
by scientific and medical societies, but, with two excep- 
tions, the so-called proofs of death for which the 
awards have been given are deemed unsatisfactory. 
The most notable of the prizes is that of the Marquis 
d'Ourches, who by his will bequeathed the sum of 
twenty thousand francs to be given to the author of 
the discovery of a simple and common means of 
recognising beyond doubt the absolute signs of death, 
by such a test as could be adopted by poor villagers 
without technical instruction. The Marquis d'Ourches 
left also a prize of five thousand francs for a similar 
discovery, but requiring the intervention of an expert. 
M. Pierre Manni, Professor at the University of Rome, 
offered a prize, which was awarded to Dr. E. Bouchut, 
in 1846. And M. Dusgate, by will, dated January 11, 


1872, bequeathed to the French Academy of Sciences 
a sufficient sum in French Rentes, to found a quin- 
quennial prize of two thousand five hundred francs 
to the author of the best work on the diagnostic signs 
of death, and the means of preventing premature 
interments. A decree of November 27, 1874, authorised 
the Academy to accept this legacy. 

The British Medical Journal, January 21, 1893, p. 145, 
reports, through its Paris correspondent, the first award. 
" The Academic des Sciences proposed as the subject 
for the Dusgate Prize for 1890, 'The Signs of Death, 
and the Means of Preventing Premature Burial.' The 
prize has been awarded to Dr. Maze, who considers 
that putrefaction is the only certain sign. He urges 
that the deaths should be certified by medical men on 
oath ; also that in every cemetery there should be a 
mortuary where dead bodies can be deposited, and 
that burial should take place only when putrefactive 
changes set in. Cremation should be adopted." 

The second prize of 1895 and the third prize of 1900 
have been awarded to Dr. Icard for his discovery, 
mentioned on page 312. 




I HAVE thought it advisable to devote a special chapter 
to the consideration of Count Karnice-Karnicki's in- 
genious invention, which has attracted so much attention 
on the Continent that many thousands of persons in 
France have left instructions in their wills for this 
scheme to be adopted at their interment, and a society 
is already formed in the United States for furthering 
the use of the system. 

The Count is a Russian nobleman, the Chamberlain 
to the Czar and Doctor of the Law Faculty of the 
University of Louvain. He was first aroused to the 
horror of premature burial when attending the funeral 
of a young Belgian girl, who was awakened out of 
her lethargy by the first shovelfuls of earth thrown 
upon her coffin after being lowered into the grave, 
and her piteous screams have haunted him ever since. 

For the prevention of such tragic occurrences, he 
set himself the task of providing some simple means 
which would be within the reach of rich and poor 
alike. The granting of a certificate, he felt, gave 
no security ; waiting mortuaries were not likely to be 
provided, except in large towns ; and, unless the law 
of the country permitted a body to remain under 
observation until putrefaction set in, there was no 
actual safeguard against premature burial. 




Broadly speaking, it consists of a long tube, about 
three and a half inches diameter, and a hermetically- 
sealed box. The tube is fixed into an aperture in the 
coffin as soon as the latter is lowered into the grave. 



Xo gases can escape from the tomb into the outer air, 
as the metallic box into which the upper end of the 
tube enters cannot be opened from the outside. 

On the chest of the supposed dead body is placed 
a glass ball, several inches in diameter, attached to 
a spring which communicates through the tube with 
an iron box above ground. 

On the slightest movement of the chest wall, as in the 
act of marked breathing, or movement of the body, the 
glass ball releases a spring which causes the lid of the 
iron box to fly open immediately, thus admitting both 
air and light to the coffin. At the same time a flag 
rises perpendicularly about four feet above the ground, 
and a bell is set ringing which continues for about 
half an hour. In front of the box, an electric lamp 
burns which gives light after sunset to the coffin below. 
The tube acts also as a speaking tube, and the voice of 
the inmate of the coffin, however feeble, is intensified. 

The working ability of the apparatus has been tested 
by its application to individuals who volunteered to be 
coffined, and who found that the mere act of breathing 
was sufficient to produce all the phenomena mentioned 

The price of the complete apparatus is exceedingly 
reasonable, only about twelve shillings ; and it is sug- 
gested, in order that the very poorest may have the 
advantage of this simple safeguard, that authorities 
should keep a supply for hiring out, and putting to 
each coffin for at least a fortnight. 

It is to be hoped that the burial and sanitary 
authorities in the United Kingdom will at least enquire 
into the merits of this unique invention. 



AMONGST the numerous suggestions made by corre- 
spondents in the press with a view of preventing live 
sepulture, none has been more frequently put forward 
than that of cremation. Sir Henry Thompson, the 
president of the Cremation Society of England, in 
the second edition of his admirable volume, " Modern 
Cremation: Its History and Practice," p. 41, observes: 
" There is a source of very painful dread as I have 
reason to know little talked of, it is true, but keenly 
felt by many persons at some time or another, the 
horror of which to some is inexpressible. It is the 
dread of a premature burial the fear lest some deep 
trance should be mistaken for death, and that the 
awakening should take place too late. Happily such 
occurrences must be exceedingly rare, especially in this 
country, where the interval between death and burial 
is considerable, and the fear is almost a groundless 
one. Still, the conviction that such a fate is possible 
which cannot be altogether denied will always be 
a source of severe trial to some. With cremation no 
such catastrophe could ever occur; and the complete- 
ness of a properly conducted process would render 
death instantaneous and painless, if by any unhappy 
chance an individual so circumstanced were submitted 


to it. But the guarantee against this danger would 
be doubled, since inspection of the entire body must 
of necessity immediately precede the act of cremation, 
no such inspection being possible under the present 



While agreeing with this distinguished authority as 
to the advantages of cremation from the sanitary and 
aesthetic point of view, which he dwells upon in the 
treatise referred to, and admitting that a certain 
amount of protection against live burial is obtainable 
by means of the dual medical inspection, we cannot 
agree that this protection is absolute. Cases of trance 
are on record where some half-a-dozen doctors, after 
careful examinations, have pronounced a cataleptic 
patient to be dead, and the patient, in defiance of 
their united opinion, has recovered consciousness, and 
been restored to health. In the terrible death of 
Signor Castaldi, an Italian stationmaster, from suffoca- 
tion in a coffin, it was reported in the press that the 
medical witnesses swore at the inquest, previous to his 
removal to the cemetery mortuary, where his agonising 
struggle for life occurred, that he had died from heart 
disease, and it was only after the tragedy had happened 
the doctors discovered that the unfortunate man, whom 
they had pronounced dead, was in a state of catalepsy. 

Dr. Franz Hartmann, in his " Premature Burial," 
quotes the two following cases amongst many others: 

" Madame de P , aged eighteen years, and subject 

to hysteria, apparently died, and for forty hours she 
presented all the signs of real death. All possible 
means of restoring her to life were taken, but proved 


of no avail. Five physicians of Lyons were called in, 
and they finally agreed, positively, that the lady was 
really dead. The funeral preparations were made ; 
but owing to the supplications of a sister of the 
deceased the burial was delayed, when after a while 
the patient recovered. She said that she had been 
all the time aware of all that was going on, without 
being able to give a sign, and without even being 
desirous of attempting it." (F. Kempner, p. 38.) 

"In 1842 a remarkable affair occupied the attention 
of the court at the city of Nantes. A man apparently 
died, and his death was certified to both by the 
attending physicians and the medical inspector ; he was 
put into a coffin, and the religious ceremonies were 
performed in good style. At the end of the funeral 
service, and as he was about to be buried, he awoke 
from his trance. The clergy and the undertakers sent 
in their accounts for the funeral expenses ; but he 
refused to pay them, giving as his reason that he had 
not ordered them ; whereupon he was sued for the 
money." (F. Kempner, p. 39.) 


Neither can we share the optimistic views of Sir 
Henry Thompson as to the rarity of premature inter- 
ment. The results of searching and independent 
inquiries and study in various countries by each of the 
authors of this treatise all point the other way, and 
the various authorities, whose names and opinions are 
cited elsewhere in this volume, confess their astonish- 
ment at the number of cases brought to light during 
their investigations. The Rev. H. R. Haweis also, in 


his work, " Ashes to Ashes : A Cremation Prelude " 
(London, 1895, now out of print), advocates cremation 
on the ground of preventing living burial, and quotes 
several cases of persons buried while in a state of 
trance. During a discussion on the merits and 
demerits of cremation in the Birmingham Gazette, 
September 17, 1895, Lieutenant-General Phelps, an 
able and judicious observer, advocated cremation for 
similar reasons, and said that "the use of a crema- 
torium would entirely prevent that ghastly accident, 
the burial of the living. There is no room to doubt 
that this frightful catastrophe is of continual occur- 
rence. The phenomena of trance are little understood, 
and a certificate of death is held by most of us to 
justify the burial of the ' corpse,' dead or alive. Those 
of us who object to the risk of being buried alive 
should do all in our power to promote the success of 
this sanitary contrivance for disposing of our dead." 

The writer of the following communication, which 
appeared in the Sunday Times, September 6, 1896, 
has substantial reasons for preferring cremation to the 
risks of burial : 

" Madam, When I was about five years old, my paternal 
home was one day plunged into a state of great consternation, 
through the sudden apparent death of my father, who had been 
sitting up during a part of the previous night, occupied with some 
literary work, without a fire (it was in January), which brought on 
a death-like numbness, in which he was found the next morning. 
The family doctor, who was sent for at once, declared life to be 
extinct, but said he could not tell the cause of death until after 
the opening of the dead body. My mother, however, who did 
not see any reason why a young man of thirty-six should have 


died without any previous illness, caused the body of my father 
to be rubbed for about two hours, which renewed its circulation, 
and brought it to life again. My father lived thirty-two years 
after that memorable day. Without the prudence of my mother, 
he would either have been dissected or buried alive. About 
twenty years after that occurrence, I visited the cemetery of 
Pere La Chaise (Paris), accompanied by some friends. While 
inspecting the monuments of some musical celebrities we heard 
a noise from another part of the cemetery, whereto we proceeded 
without delay. When we had arrived there we found a strong 
body of policemen surrounding an open grave. But in answer 
to our inquiring ' what had happened,' we were simply requested 
to leave the cemetery at once, which, of course, we had to do. 
Neither the portier nor any other person connected with the 
burial-ground would give any satisfactory answer to our ques- 
tions. We left puzzled. But a week after, a young lady, who 
had been of our party the week before, went again to the Pere 
la Chaise, determined to penetrate the mystery, in which 
endeavour she succeeded, partly through persuasion and partly 
through the gift of a twenty-franc piece to a grave-digger, who 
then told her the following story : A poor young man of twenty- 
one years had been buried on the day of our visit. When 
the mourners had left the cemetery, the grave-digger who was 
occupied in filling up the grave heard some noise coming from 
below. He hastened to the superintendent of the cemetery,, 
imploring him to have the coffin opened, which, however, the 
superintendent could not do without the permission and the 
presence of the Commissaire de Police of that district. When 
the Commissaire appeared at last with his men, all was silent 
in the grave. But he had the coffin opened, nevertheless, ' to 
appease the mind of that poor grave-digger,' as he mockingly 
said. But great was the horror of the Commissaire de Police 
and his followers when the coffin was opened. The unfortunate 
young man (who was now quite dead) had been buried alive, 
recovered consciousness in his grave, scratched his face, bitten 
off the tips of his fingers, and turned round in his coffin, until 
suffocation put an end to his sufferings, which, if not long,. 
must have been terrible. The Parisian newspapers did not 


mention the case. They were probably forbidden by the French 
Government to do so. But would it not have been wiser to let 
the whole world know of it, and thereby prevent repetitions of 
such dreadful occurrences? A similar case of live sepulture 
occurred in a village near Wiesbaden some thirty years ago, 
where a girl of sixteen was found with the same signs of 
suffocation in her coffin as those of that unfortunate young 
man in Paris. We are assured by a German authority that 
thousands of people are buried alive every year. But why 
should this be the case? If people must be buried before they 
begin to show signs of putrefaction (which seems to be the 
only reliable proof that life is really extinct), why not shorten 
their sufferings, in case of resuscitation, by opening an artery 
before they are buried ? There is still much prejudice against 
the cremation of dead bodies, although two great facts are 
decidedly in its favour viz., the impossibility of recovering 
consciousness when once inserted in the crematory oven, and 
the prevention of the unhealthiness which the slow process of 
putrefaction must entail. Yours, etc., 

"London." " J. H. BONAWITZ." 


Having regard to the importance of the subject, the 
author wrote to the hon. secretary of the Cremation 
Society of England, and received the following reply, 
dated 8 New Cavendish Street, London, W. : 

" With reference to your enquiry as to the steps 
adopted to prevent a person in a trance being cremated, 
I may say that this society has not made any special 
provision in that respect. You will notice, however, 
that, before a cremation can be carried out, the cause 
of death must be certified without the slightest shadow 
of doubt by two duly qualified medical men. This 
being so, I think there is less likelihood of a person 


who is simply in a trance being cremated than buried, 
one doctor's certificate being sufficient in the latter 

" (Signed) T. C. SWINBURNE-HANHAM." 

Since the above was written, Sir Henry Thompson 
has published the fourth edition of his work, and in 
pp. 91, 92, the following significant words have been 
added : 

" In connection with this subject, it should never be 
forgotten that there is but one really trustworthy 
proof that death has occurred in any given instance, 
viz., the presence of a manifest sign of decomposition. 
That condition is always ascertainable, at all events to 
the professional eye, and it should always be verified 
before a certificate of death is signed. Unhappily, no 
special attention to it is demanded under the present 
national system of registration. In the enquiry invari- 
ably adopted by the Cremation Society, the inspection 
is enforced, and the answer must be recorded by the 
medical man who signs the certificate." 

Sir Henry then adds, in a letter to the Sf. James's 
Gazette of 6th December, 1892 : 

" It should be remembered that the body is sent 
(i.e., to cremation) not in a coffin, but in a slight shell, 
to. facilitate the inspection above referred to. 

" Were these precautions enforced by the State in 
every case of death, whether for cremation or other- 
wise, there would be no fear at all in relation to the 

subj ' ect "(Signed) HENRY THOMSON, 

" President of the Cremation 

Society of England. 
"35 Wimpole Street." 


From this we conclude that the Cremation Society 
now adopts the precaution of waiting until signs of 
decomposition are apparent before committing a body 
to the flames. This is, indeed, the only certain way 
by which Mr. Swinburne- Hanham's assurance that 
death is "certified without the slightest shadow of a 
doubt " could be held to be satisfactory. 


There can be no question that popular sentiment is 
opposed to cremation largely on the ground that the 
latter is associated with paganism, and that Christianity 
teaches reverence for the body. Hence cremation in 
this country makes but little progress comparatively. 

Dealing with this phase of the question, the Rev. 
John Page Hopps, in Light, July 4, 1896, says: "We 
are told that respect for the dead urges to burial as 
against cremation, but many are now very keenly feel- 
ing the reverse of this. They can bring the mind to 
bear the liberation of the body by one swift act of 
disintegration and purifying, but cannot overcome the 
shrinking from subjecting it to the foul and lingering 
processes of the grave or, perchance, to the horror of 
recovering consciousness in the grave." Mr. Hopps 
further states one of the strongest arguments thus : 
" Respect for the living, too, is an urgent motive. The 
highest authorities tell us that the air we breathe and the 
water we drink are often contaminated by the emanations 
of graves. It cannot be right that London, for instance, 
with all its inevitable impurities, should add to its foul- 
nesses that of trying to live in company with thousands 
upon thousands of decaying bodies in its very midst." 


To dispose of the dead decently, and at the same 
time without injury to the living, is one of the first 
obligations of civilised communities, and cremation 
seems best calculated to fulfil the conditions. Zymotic 
diseases, such as typhus, scarlatina, and the plague, 
have been traced in certain instances to emanations 
from burial-grounds. 

Dr. Charles Creighton, in his i: History of Epidemics 
in Britain," vol. i., p. 336, says: "The grand provoca- 
tive of plague was no obvious nuisance above ground, 
but the loading of the soil, generation after generation, 
with an immense quantity of cadaveric matters, which 
were diffused in the pores of the ground under the 
feet of the living, to rise in emanations more deadly 
in one season than in another." 

It would seem from these experiences as though 
there was quite as much truth as poetry in Shake- 
speare when he said, " grave-yards yawn, and hell itself 
breathes out contagion on the world." Before many 
years it is not unlikely that cremation in this as in 
some other countries will be made obligatory in cases 
of death from all infectious diseases. As the late 
Bishop of Manchester observed, "the earth is not for 
the dead, but for the living." Professor Alexander 
Wilder, M.D., in his "Perils of Premature Burial," 
1895, p. 16, says: "I have often wished that the 
old Oriental practice of cremation was in fashion 
among us. There would then be at least the com- 
fortable reflection of no liability to suffocation in a 
coffin. The application of fire, however, will generally 
rouse the cataleptic person to some manifestation of 



In " The London Burial -Grounds," by Mrs. Basil 
Holmes, 1896, p. 269, the question is asked: "Are we 
ever to allow England to be divided like a chess-board 
into towns and burial-places? What we have to consider 
is how to dispose of the dead without taking so much 
valuable space from the living. In the metropolitan 
area alone we have almost filled (and in some places 
over-filled) twenty- four new cemeteries within sixty 
years, with an area of above six hundred acres; and 
this is as nothing compared with the huge extent of 
land used for interments just outside the limits of the 
metropolis. If the cemeteries are not to extend 
indefinitely, they must in time be built upon, or they 
must be used for burial over and over again, or the 
ground must revert to its original state as agricultural 
land, or we must turn our parks and commons into 
cemeteries, and let our cemeteries be our only recrea- 
tion grounds, which heaven forbid." 

According to Dr. Ebenezer Duncan, eight thousand 
bodies are buried yearly in Glasgow and its neighbour- 
hood, poisoning both air and water, and endangering the 
public health. The same state of things has existed in 
London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and other 
large towns. The following resolution was unanimously 
adopted in the Preventive Medicine Department of a 
Health Congress, Glasgow, in July, 1896: "That in 
the opinion of this Congress cremation of the dead, 
especially in cases of infectious disease, is a natural and 
very desirable hygienic process, and that this Congress 
of the British Institute of Public Health use all proper 


means to urge upon the Government the desirability of 
their promoting a measure to enable sanitary authorities, 
if they so desire, to build crematoria and to conduct 
them under proper superintendence." 

During the thirteen years ending 1890 there were 
three hundred and three thousand four hundred and 
sixty-six deaths from cholera in Japan, and all the 
bodies of these persons were cremated. In India, as 
we have already shown, cremation is practised under 
most of the religious systems, as it is believed that 
the soul is not free from its earthly tenement until 
the body is reduced to ashes. The method of 
burning is slow and cumbersome as compared with 
that adopted in Europe; but during the author's last 
visit to Ceylon, in the earl}' part of 1896, there was 
some talk of establishing a crematorium. 



IN La Presse Medicate, Paris, August 17, 1904, appears 
a very interesting article by M. Icard, of Marseilles, 
occupying more than twelve columns of the journal, 
on the subject of " The Danger of Apparent Death." 
The writer, who holds a high position in the medical 
world, says that for the past twelve years he has 
conducted enquiries into every report of alleged 
premature burial or of apparent death which has 
appeared in the public press, by writing to the 
mayor of the town where the event was said to have 
taken place, or to some other official capable of 
giving authentic information. 

Dr. Icard proceeds to state that it would be useless 
for him to repeat the numerous facts which he had 
published in a preceding work, 1 but he goes on to 
enumerate in detail some twelve instances of resuscita- 
tion which, for the most part, have not been previously 
published. The cases he gives are all those of apparent 
death, certified as dead in almost every instance by 
medical men, but which subsequently " came to life " 
just in time to save them from the most horrible of 
deaths. In one instance " return to life " took place 

1 " La Mort et la Mort Subite." Paris, 1895. Ouvrage couronne 
par I'lnstitut de France, Paris, 1897. 


in the presence of several doctors whilst the funeral 
ceremony over the supposed corpse was solemnly 
proceeding. M. K. Boussakis, Professor of Physiology 
at the Faculty of Medicine of Athens, was an eye- 
witness of this scene. And another well-authenticated 
instance was that of a fisherman who had been "dead" 
for twenty hours from "apoplexy," and whose body 
was cold. He was wrapped and sewn up in his 
funeral shroud, and left till the time of burial ; but 
on the way to the cemetery the bearers heard muffled 
sounds within the coffin, which was accordingly opened. 
Three medical men who were passing were appealed 
to in order to pronounce on the man's condition. 
Restorative means were employed, and in a few days 
he was well. This is given on the authority of Dr. 
Zacutus Lusitanus, who was present on the occasion. 
The writer declares that he has " taken the greatest 
pains to verify every case he now publishes," and 
" the proof of authenticity is," he says, " of such a 
nature as must carry conviction to the minds of the 
most sceptical." 

In the course of this valuable article, Dr. Icard 
draws attention to the waiting mortuaries established 
in many towns in Germany, in which the bodies of 
the certified dead are deposited until the evidence of 
putrefaction is apparent; and he goes on to say: "It 
is stated by some authors that there is no instance in 
the registers of these mortuaries 'of those resurrections 
which are served up as a feast for the popular imagi- 
nation/ and they argue from such statements, which 
they think cannot be answered, against the reality of 
the danger of apparent death. But are not those 


authors," he asks, "who reproach others with credulity 
when they cite an instance of apparent death, very 
credulous themselves when they affirm, on the faith of 
others, their disbelief in cases of resuscitation from 
apparent death in German mortuaries?" 

One case in particular he gives, details of which 
he obtained from the burgomaster of Ludwigshaffen- 
sur-Rhin, in Bavaria. On the I3th June, 1903, towards 
six o'clock in the evening, a child, four days old, was 
brought to the mortuary, whose death had been certified 
by a medical man at nine o'clock that morning. The 
burgomaster adds that "the doctor examined the child, 
and found every sign of death, and ordered it to be 
taken to the mortuary." An hour after the body had 
been received the child gave signs of life, and it was 
subsequently returned to its mother, but it died in 
reality that same night. 

Now, it is unnecessary to multiply cases. Granted 
that only one single unanswerable instance of apparent 
death an instance which has sufficed to baffle the 
scrutiny of careful examination by a duly qualified 
medical man be forthcoming, and such case upon 
removal to a waiting mortuary has recovered, it would, 
we maintain, be a sufficient warrant, not only for 
waiting until the only unmistakable sign of death 
putrefaction is evident, but for providing a suitable 
place for the body to wait in. The indifferent sceptic 
may reply: "What! would you go to such pains and 
expense, when the possibility of a mistake is probably 
only one in 50,000, or even more ? " The humanitarian 
will promptly answer: "Yes; even if it were only one 
in fifty millions, that one is a living human soul." But 


we have already proved conclusively that such cases 
are anything but rare, and, as Dr. Icard graphically 
puts it in the article we have referred to, " if there 
are so many truly authentic cases of apparent death 
and of premature burial which have come to light, it 
is presumable that there are many more, the only 
witnesses of which are the boards of the coffin." 


A writer in the British and Foreign Medico-Chirur- 
gical Revieiv, 1855, vol. xv., p. 75, says: "The earliest 
movements in the direction of means for the prevention 
of premature interments originated with Winslow, in 
France, followed by other well-known writers upon the 
signs of death. It was Madame Necker, however, who 
embodied their suggestions in a practicable form as 
submitted to the National Assembly, in 1792, by 
Count Berchshold. In the ninth year of the first 
French Republic (1801) a project was entertained for 
the erection of six ' temples funeraires ' in Paris, but 
came to no good, as attendant evils preponderated. 
To Germany belongs the credit of having executed 
these designs in such wise that they should not prove 
the positive sources of more danger to the living 
than could be counterbalanced by the occasional 
preservation of an individual from the risk of prema- 
ture interment. Believing that this risk had been 
prodigiously diminished since the establishment of 
these institutions for the reception of cases where 
cloubt of the reality of death has existed, Hufeland, 
in Weimar, devised the plan that Frankfort-on-the- 
Maine incorporated with its reform in sepulture and 


establishment of extra-mural cemeteries, in 1823. The 
first modern mortuary was opened at Weimar, Germany 
in 1791. Hufeland's plans have subsequently been 
adopted and carried out in many other German 
States. ... As a sanitary measure the separation 
of the dead from the living, especially from among 
the crowded poor, would be, apart from the not less 
important point of verification of death, an incalculable 
benefit. ... It behoves us in this matter to learn 
another lesson from our neighbours, and to take 
measures to prevent the occurrence of catastrophes 
too fearfully horrible to comtemplate in thought, too 
dreadful for the most vivid imagination to realise. 
Science can hold out no token by which to recognise 
the certainty of death. Sanitary police, at least in 
England, are indifferent about the risk of a few burials 
alive, and thinks it superfluous to prevent their 

The extensive literature on this subject shows that the 
struggle to bring about the existing mortuary system in 
Germany was kept up for many years before it obtained 
its measure of success. It was legalised about the year 
1795, after the physicians of Germany, France, and 
Austria had shown the absolute necessity for it. 

Mortuaries have continued in high favour with the 
people wherever they have once been properly estab- 
lished ; none, so far as the author has been able to 
learn, have ever been abolished. 


Referring to the universal fear of burying relatives 
alive, the Lancet, September 20, 1845, vol. ii., p. 321, 


observed: " It is but little use to descant upon an evil 
without pointing out a remedy. In Frankfort, Munich, 
and in various other towns, houses, properly situated, 
have been fitted up for the temporary reception of the 
dead. Corpses are there deposited immediately after 
death, and taken care of until the signs of decomposition 
have become unequivocal, medical assistance being at 
hand should symptoms of vitality manifest themselves. 
By this simple plan all the objections which attend on 
the retention of the dead in the dwellings of the poor 
may be obviated, and at the same time their dread of 
burying their relatives while still alive respected. This 
plan is evidently much preferable to that which is 
followed in France. In the latter country, in the large 
towns, there is in every district a medical inspector of 
the dead. The inspector is informed of the death as 
soon as it has taken place, and within a very limited 
time is bound to inspect the body and give a formal 
certificate. This guarantee having been obtained, the 
inhumation of the deceased is enforced by law within 
two or three days of the death. Notwithstanding this 
precaution, cases have occurred, even during the last 
few years, which appear to prove that inhumation has 
taken place before life was quite extinct. We doubt, 
also, whether such early interment could under any 
circumstances be enforced in our own country. Some 
modification of the German plan is evidently what we 
must look for in any system of legislation which may 
hereafter be decided on." These admirable suggestions 
from the leading medical journal were made more than 
half a century ago; since that time, every year has 
brought to light cases of living burial, and confirmed 


the urgent need of reform; but nothing has been 
done until quite recently to awaken public attention to 
their importance. The subject is of such a gruesome, 
unpleasant, and depressing character that few people 
care to have their names associated with a movement 
of this character, beneficent though it is, and certain 
to save thousands of unfortunate people, particularly 
women and children (who are more especially liable 
to various forms of suspended animation), from such 
tragic occurrences. 


jjf 3 V B 8: 'HiPf ^'l*?*'*^^*!-; 




Of all the various methods that have been suggested 
or introduced for the prevention of premature inter- 
ment, none has been attended with such satisfactory 
results as the erection of mortuaries (LeichenhauserJ 
in Germany. 

Those of Munich are, perhaps, the finest which 
have yet been erected, and are replete with every 
modern appliance for resuscitation, should such be 
necessary, and furnished with every requisite suited 
to the refinements of sympathy and taste. 


In order to better understand the precise conditions 
which should obtain in such establishments, we have 
added photographs of parts of these extensive build- 
ings, for which we are indebted to the excellent 
French journal L Illustration, and from the interesting 
description published in its columns we have extracted 
many of the following particulars. These particulars, 
with the accompanying illustrations, will explain, far 
better than any advice we can give, the reform which, 
we believe, is urgently needed in our own country. 

Waiting mortuaries have existed at Munich since 
the beginning of the last century. The custom of 
removing bodies to them was at first optional, and, 
therefore, was not freely taken advantage of. In 
1869, however, at the time of an epidemic of cholera, 
a police regulation rendered it obligatory. At first 
the inhabitants rebelled, looking upon those who 
wished to take away their dead from them as odious ; 
but the authorities were very determined, and by 
degrees the citizens became used to a custom the 
advantages of which are now highly appreciated. 

When a death occurs in a house in Munich, the 
family at once apprise the police of the fact, and they 
themselves have no more to do with the matter. Half 
an hour after, a public medical officer arrives, who 
confirms the death, and gives permission for the corpse 
to be removed. At the Town Hall a whole army of 
women, supported by the municipality, is permanently 
kept, who are deputed to " lay out " the corpse, etc. 
One of these women arrives at the same time as the 
doctor ; she washes the corpse, dresses it usually in 
the best ordinary attire and puts it in the coffin, which 


is then conveyed by a hearse to the mortuary. None 
of the family accompany it. Everything is done with 
the utmost rapidity. According to the regulations, the 
body must be removed within twelve hours after 
death, or within six hours if the case is contagious. 
These rules are strictly observed ; often even at the 
end of three or four hours the death chamber is 

Munich has ten mortuaries ; nine are open to those 
of every religion, one is reserved for those of the 
Jewish faith. It is the mortuary chamber of the North 
Mortuary, which is here reproduced. 

In an immense room, closed by large glass doors,, 
through which the interior can be seen from the outside, 
are ranged in three rows twenty sarcophagi, fixed in a 
sloping position. The slabs upon which they rest are 
supplied with a zinc trench, filled with an antiseptic 
fluid. At the head of each coffin a rod is fixed, from 
which falls a cord having a metal ring at its extremity. 
This cord communicates with a system of bells, and the 
least pressure on the rope sets it in motion. 

From the moment of its arrival at the mortuary the 
coffin is uncovered, and placed on one of the slabs. The 
body is raised, and reclines upon a cushion, and the 
whole is covered by a profusion of flowers, usually allow- 
ing only the head of the corpse to be seen, besides a 
large ticket bearing the number of identification. The 
hands are crossed upon the breast, and one of the fingers 
inserted in the ring. All this is carried out by public 
servants, who usually show good taste in these funeral 
arrangements. Many families have their dead photo- 
graphed like this ; and the coffin is carried into a court 


specially kept for this purpose. Owing to the perfect 
ventilation and the steadiness of the temperature, no 
odour is noticed but the smell of the flowers and the 
lighted candles. The relative purity of the atmosphere 
is really astonishing. 

There is a room for the rich and another for the 
poor, adjoining each other. Nothing distinguishes them, 
except perhaps the quality of the flowers provided for 
the respective classes. The cost is very moderate. The 
total charge (not counting the service in the church, or 
the price of the certificate) varies from i to 6. 

The body remains exposed thus from forty-eight 
to seventy-two hours. The relatives are allowed to 
visit, and, also, they may appoint a nun or other 
person to watch. 

Between the two mortuaries is the caretaker's room 
a narrow cell, containing the bell apparatus, which 
is enclosed in a long cupboard, like the case of a 
grandfather's clock. For furniture a table, a chair, 
and a couch. Windows look into the mortuary. It 
is here that the caretaker passes the greater part of 
his existence. He has to make frequent rounds of 
inspection, and is not allowed to leave under any 
pretext whatever, no matter for how short a time, 
unless he leaves a substitute. In the evening he 
stretches -himself upon his couch, where the slightest 
tinkle of the bell would arouse him. This frequently 
happens ; the warning bell is so sensitive that the 
least shake of the corpse sets it in motion. But the 
guardian is not at all flustered ; various causes may 
agitate the bell, and the waking of a corpse is a very 
rare occurrence. Nevertheless, the caretaker at once 



goes to ascertain the cause of the alarm, and, having 
assured himself that the corpse preserves all the signs 
of death, he readjusts the cord, and returns to continue 
his sleep. 

The coffin is closed only a few minutes before 
interment, and after a final medical examination has 
taken place. Sometimes, when a nervous family wishes 
it, the coffin is carried into a separate room, where it 


is kept open one or two days longer, often even 
making an incision on the heel. 

One sad exception, however, to the usual satis- 
factory results is recorded by M. Gaubert in his work, 
" Les Chambres Mortuaires d'Attente." The incident 
he narrates occurred at Munich on 25th January, 
1 849, and is as follows : 

" A young man who was asphyxiated by charcoal 
had been declared dead by the doctor. After they 
had been watching the body twenty-four hours at the 
mortuary chamber, the family caused it to be carried 
to the church, where it passed the night without the 
customary caretaker. The next morning ' the corpse ' 
was found bathed in its own blood, and the floor 
of the church was stained. Restored to consciousness 
during the night, and not having any help, the poor 
young man had succumbed to haemorrhage, brought 
on by the incisions which they blindly practised on 
the body of the supposed dead one, to make sure of 
his death." 

Another instance he gives, also occurred at Munich, 
is of a different character, but with a very sad 
accompaniment : 

"A 'little child, five years old, was carried to the 
Leichenhaiiser, and the corpse was deposited as usual. 
The next morning a servant from the mortuary 
knocked at the mother's house, carrying a large 
bundle in his arms. It was the resuscitated child, 
which she was mourning as lost. The transports of 
joy she experienced were so great that she- fell down 
dead. The child came to life in the mortuary by 


itself, and when the keeper saw it, it was playing 
with the white roses which had been placed on its 

A gigantic mortuary has recently been built in the 
west of Munich, the most perfect in Germany. Under 
the central dome are a series of chapels provided for 
different religions. On each side is an immense hall, 
shut off by big glass doors, which move on rollers 
along the ground, where the bodies are placed in one 
row. This gallery is flanked by two corridors, one 
reserved for the public, the other for the funeral ser- 
vice. The warning bells are worked by electricity. 
The heating and cooling arrangements are marvellously 
organised, keeping a constant temperature of +7 degrees, 
which, according to the German doctors, is the most 
favourable for preserving the body. 

The question suggests itself here : Why should not 
the English-speaking peoples accept the long experi- 
ence of a philosophical, painstaking, clear-minded people 
like the Germans, supported as it is by many sanitary 
and medical authorities in France, England, and the 
United States, and establish these institutions in 
connection with existing cemeteries, with such modifi- 
cations as national habits, local tastes, and customs 
may dictate ? 


In sharp contrast to the magnificent waiting mortu- 
aries of Munich, Berlin, and other parts of Germany 
stand the mortuaries of the English metropolis. They 
are nearly all plain, gloomy, and depressing structures of 


brick. The best of them comprise a coroner's court- 
room, coroner's private room, the caretaker's rooms, 
waiting room, post-mortem room, chapel, and viewing 
room connected. There is no physician in attendance, 
and no autopsies are performed except by surgeons 
upon their own cases, or for purposes of inquests. 
There are no appliances or conveniences for resuscita- 
tion, as all the bodies are regarded as dead, having 
been for the most part certified as such by a medical 
practitioner, the exceptions being such as are taken 
from the water or street by the police, or left there 
for inquest. The buildings are usually well lighted, 
and some of the rooms contain fire-places, but they 
are devoid of taste or ornamentation of any kind. 
The bodies are kept in coffins, which, if there is any 
odour proceeding from them, are screwed down. Per- 
mission is afforded for inspection by doctors or by any 
of the family of the deceased on application to the 
keeper. These mortuaries are kept clean, and decent 
and respectful treatment of the bodies is enforced by 

By the courtesy of the Clerk to the London County 
Council, we have received a " copy of the last return 
of coroners' courts, mortuaries, and post-mortem cham- 
bers issued by the Council." This return is dated 
November 14, 1899. There appears to have been little 
alteration since the publication of the 1894 return, 
which we noticed in our first edition. In the annual 
report, 1902-3, it is said: "Three boroughs are pro- 
vided with good mortuaries and post-mortem rooms. 
. ... In the remaining boroughs partial or pro- 
visional accommodation as to mortuaries, post-mortem 


rooms, and coroners' courts exist, and the question of 
the improvement of such accommodation is under con- 
sideration." That is, of the twenty-eight boroughs of 
which London is composed, only three are declared 
to be provided with " good " mortuary accommodation. 

At Shoreditch "there is a small mortuary in the 
parish churchyard, consisting of two rooms one of 
which is used as a post-mortem room. Any enlarge- 
ment is prevented by the fact of it being a disused 
burial ground." It is proposed to improve it by 
"lining the walls with glazed tiles, and providing 
means for heating water." At Poplar the mortuary 
is "inadequate and unsuitable." The mortuary in 
Bromley Cemetery is "unsatisfactory"; and that in Bow 
Churchyard " is merely an old crypt, quite unfit for 
use as a mortuary, and has no post-mortem accom- 
modation." We are officially informed that " in no 
part of the new borough of Wandsworth is ... 
the mortuary accommodation entirely satisfactory." 

At St. George-the-Martyr the mortuary " has no 
infectious chamber, and the post-mortem room is 
incompletely separated from the mortuary"; whilst at 
Christchurch and St. Saviour's there is "an inadequate 
mortuary under a railway arch." At Horsleydown, 
Southwark, " the inadequacy of the mortuary accom- 
modation " has been repeatedly brought before the 
notice of the authorities. The Holborn mortuary is 
at the rear of the Town Hall ; " the approach is either 
through the post-mortem room or infectious chamber" 
the latter " serves as a viewing room to the mor- 
tuary"! The St. Giles mortuary and coroner's court 
is " rather small, and in a confined position." At St. 


Paul's, Deptford, " there is a mortuary in the church- 
yard, but it has only one room, which serves as a 
mortuary and post-mortem room. This is contrary to 
the Public Health Act." There is no mortuary at 
Hatcham, nor at Charlton, nor Kidbrooke. Lee and 
Eltham are, according to the last return, in the same 
unsatisfactory condition. 

At Greenwich "there is a mortuary, with post-mortem 
room, in a disused churchyard, but the approach is 
bad, there is no accommodation for infectious cases, 
and the fittings are capable of improvement." The 
mortuary at St. Nicholas, Deptford, is in the church- 
yard, and " consists of one room, with slabs for 
two coffins. It is also used as a post-mortem room 
and a gardener's tool-house and store." Plumstead 
provides " a small underground mortuary in St. 
Nicholas Churchyard, unsuitable for the purpose." At 
St. Martin's-in-the-Fields " there is a mortuary under 

the churchyard of St. Martin's Church 

but there is no infectious chamber, waiting room, or 
viewing lobby." 

Judging by the evidence which lies before us, the 
state of the mortuaries in the London hospitals is very 
much on a par with the state of similar places outside. 
The Medical Times^ in an article, September 5, 1896, 
in describing some of the mortuary eccentricities, cites 
one hospital where the only place available was the 
wash-house, and concludes : " It would appear that the 
managers of metropolitan hospitals do not believe in 
the reality of death -counterfeits, and therefore make 
no arrangements for resuscitation." This condition of 
things is not encouraging, and can scarcely be deemed 


worthy of the first city in the world. London mortu- 
aries are found to be useful and convenient in relieving 
hotels and private houses of the dead pending funerals, 
and in cases of deaths from infectious diseases, as well 
as from accidents and acts of violence which require 
investigation. There is, therefore, a disposition to im- 
prove matters, but even in the three boroughs Chelsea, 
Hampstead, and Stoke Newington whose mortuaries 
are singled out from all the rest for official praise, 
much yet remains to be done ere the conditions 
can at all compare with buildings erected for a similar 
purpose on the Continent. 

At small outlay they could be made creditable and 
useful establishments. First of all, they require the 
means of resuscitation, such as are in use at the Royal 
Humane Society's depots and at the German mortu- 
aries ; also baths, couches, plants, flowers, and mural 
ornaments, with a skilled nurse or caretaker, and a 
medical practitioner either on the establishment or 
within telephone call. 

A fundamental regulation should be added to the 
standing orders that, when there is no sign of decom- 
position, bodies should be treated not as dead but as 
sick needing attention, and to be kept under careful 
observation. Such simple and inexpensive alterations, 
gradually introduced by County, Parish, and District 
Councils, would, in the course of time, bring about a 
greater respect for the dead, with proper consideration 
for the apparently dead, besides increasing the feeling 
of the sanctity of human life. In the course of time 
these improvements would educate the public, and lead 
to the erection of new and handsome structures of 


beautiful design, with appropriate artistic decorations, 
such as are to be found in Munich and other parts of 

The following pointed recommendation made by Sir 
VV. J. Collins, M.D., M.S., B.Sc, D.P.H. (London), late 
chairman of the L.C.C., in a paper read by him at the 
Hygiene Congress at Buda Pesth, is worthy of urgent 
notice: "I therefore hold that every inducement should 
be held out to the poor by local authorities, by the 
provision of decent, suitable, and attractive mortuaries, 
to allow their dead to be removed from danger to the 
living to a place where sentiment shall be respected 
and sanitation satisfied." 


Judging by replies we have received from officials 
in many of the larger towns in the United Kingdom, 
the majority publish no reports of their mortuaries, 
nor do they issue any definite regulations. Separate 
records of the bodies laid in the mortuaries appear 
to be very rarely kept. In none is there the least 
assimilation to the ideas which permeate the official 
and public mind in the Continental towns referred to. 
They are simply depositories for the homeless and 
neglected dead. 


The following extracts are from the report by Dr. 
J. E. Kenny, M.P., Coroner for the City of Dublin : 

" There are no local laws in Dublin or in Ireland 


relative to the mode of disposal of the dead, but the 
Sanitary Acts, which refer to the United Kingdom of 
Great Britain and Ireland, can be availed of when 
necessary to compel the burial of the dead within a 
reasonable period, on the ground that an unburied 
body is a nuisance dangerous to public health. There 
is, however, no fixed period. Among Roman Catholics 
it is customary to bury the dead on the third or 
fourth day after death, but there is no hard-and-fast 

rule The local burial authorities usually 

require a medical certificate of death before opening 
the grave, but there is no legal sanction for this, and 
it is merely the custom. The coroner's order for 
burial where an inquest is held does away with the 
necessity of such certificates as those above referred 
to, but post-mortem examinations in these cases are 
the exception, not the rule. A good many, however, 
are held on those who die in local hospitals, when 
the consent of the relatives or friends can be obtained. 
I have not heard of any case of cremation in Ireland, 
and earth-burial is the universal practice. Occasionally, 
when so ordered by the will of the deceased, a body 
is removed to England for cremation. I am myself 
rather in favour of cremation as a more scientific and 
safer method of disposing of the dead. 

" There are no chambers (mortuaries) of the kind 
referred to in this question in Dublin, nor, so far as 
I know, in Ireland. I know of no law as to the 
signs of death which must be recognised to exist 
before burial is permitted, nor is there any officer on 
whom is thrown the duty of ascertaining or deciding 
whether such exist or not." 



During the discussion on premature burials in the 
press, the erection of mortuaries (chambres mortuaires 
d'attente) has been objected to (i) on the ground of 
expense to the ratepayers ; (2) because the results by 
way of resuscitation of those constructed in Germany 
have not justified the cost of their erection and main- 
tenance, and that if they had not already been in 
existence they would not now, it is said, be established; 
(3) because relations object to be separated from their 
dead before burial. 

As to expense, it is not unlikely that the unthinking 
majority would prefer to accept what they may look 
upon as an infinitesimal risk rather than incur the 
neccessary outlay. When once, however, the public 
is aroused to the fact that living burial is a serious 
and real danger, the expense will no longer be taken 
into consideration. Tastefully designed mortuaries in all 
populous districts could be met by a rate of from one 
farthing to a penny in the pound, and in the smaller 
or thinly-populated districts groups of parishes could 
unite in providing such useful institutions. * Public 
bodies might appropriately take this matter up under 
the powers granted to them by the Local Government 
Act of 1894. At present, under existing customs, 
probably ten times the amount required is annually 
expended in funeral trappings, mourning habiliments, 
costly wreaths, and ornamental monuments (mainly 
for the purpose of ostentatious display) that would 
provide temporary resting-places for the real and 
apparently dead in every part of the United Kingdom. 


The erection of such establishments, where the fact 
of death in every case could be unequivocally de- 
monstrated before burial or cremation, would remove 
an ever present and consuming load of anxiety from 
the hearts of thousands of sensitive souls. 

The second objection namely, that results in resus- 
citation have not justified their erection, and that 
such mortuaries are no longer built is simply untrue. 
Mortuaries, upon a scale hitherto unattempted, have but 
recently been erected in Berlin and Munich, and similar 
establishments are to be erected in Paris, whilst many 
other towns and cities on the Continent, which have not 
yet adopted the system, have the matter under grave 
consideration. We have already quoted instances of 
resuscitation in them as a proof of their utility, and 
more cases will be given before concluding this chapter. 

We have seen it stated and restated in public journals, 
and by public men who ought to be more guarded in 
their utterances, that "there has never been known a 
single case of resuscitation in a German mortuary." 
This is clearly denied in the report of the Municipal 
Council of Paris for 1880, No. 174, p. 84, wherein is 
published a letter from Herr Ehrhart, Mayor of Munich,. 
May 2, 1880, who says: "The lengthy period during 
which these establishments have been utilised, the order 
which has always prevailed, the manner in which the 
remains are disposed and adorned, the resuscitation of 
some who were believed to be dead, have all contributed 
to remove any sentimental objections to these establish- 
ments. The bodies are transported to the Leichenhaiiser 
twelve hours after death, without the least opposition 
upon the part of the relatives." 


But the very presence of a system of this descrip- 
tion would, in the ordinary course of things, lessen 
the number of premature interments ; for, where the 
dead remain under public supervision until putrefaction 
commences, the expert medical official, who is publicly 
employed to verify the deaths, would be exceedingly 
cautious ere he granted his certificate, and ordered 
the body to be removed to the mortuary. There 
could be no possibility under such conditions of 
the existence of a scandal similar to that which 
came to light at an inquest held at Wigan by Mr. 
S. Brighouse, one of the County Coroners for Lan- 
cashire, on December 21, 1902. The Coroner said 
" the circumstances were, perhaps, the most remarkable 
he had ever had to disclose to a jury." The child 
had " died " four times, and the mother had obtained 
three medical certificates of death on the strength of 
her own diagnoses ! 

At the same time, it must be admitted, it is very 
difficult for an enquirer on the Continent to obtain 
reliable information with regard to what takes place 
within the walls of mortuaries, because of the numerous 
officials and others who are interested in covering up 
any errors of previous death-certification that may 
come to light in them. The system in Germany is 
practically one of police regulation. But, difficult as 
it may be to ascertain the complete number of cases 
which, as the result of the excellent mortuary system, 
have been saved from a horrible death, there have been 
a sufficient number brought to light to warrant the 
trite observation made by The Hospital on February 
27, 1904 : " Even if the risk is as slight as most 


authorities contend, there is no reason why it should 
not be completely removed." 

In reply to the third objection, which is one of 
sentiment, and which we would not wish to underrate, 
we believe mourners would soon get accustomed to 
the separation from their dead if the latter were 
removed to mortuaries where the surroundings were 
of a pleasing character, and where they could visit 
the remains as often as they pleased. The possibility 
that by such means a terrible mistake may be rectified 
would appeal to the most sensitive; and the poor, who 
can ill spare the room required for the deposit of a 
coffin, would, upon the grounds of health and conveni- 
ence, soon come to value such a system. The writer, 
in the course of his practice, has on several occasions 
found, among the very poor, families having meals in 
tiny rooms in a city slum side by side with a shell 
containing the corpse of a departed relative. 


Out of the quantity of material which lies before us 
it is somewhat difficult to select illustrative cases suited 
to the limited space at command. The following are 
such as are vouched for by competent authorities: 


" A Berlin apothecary wrote to me lately," says Dr. 
Lenormand, " in this town to the effect that during an 
interval of two years and a half ten people stated to 
be dead had been recalled to life. I shall quote only 
the following: 



'"In the middle of the night the bell of the vestibule rang 
violently. The caretaker, who had only entered on duties within 
a few days, much startled, ran towards the mortuary. As soon 
as he opened the door he found himself confronted with one of 
"the corpses" enveloped in his shroud, who had quitted his bier 
and was making his way out. He was a soldier of the guard 
believed to be dead, and he was able to join his regiment five 
days later.' " 


Dr. Josat said that, during his sojourn in Germany, 
Herr Schmill, director of the mortuary at Frankfort, 
related to him a case of apparent death which occurred 
under his own eyes. 

" In the year 1840, a girl of nineteen years died of acute 
pleuro-pneumonia. Her body, during very hot weather, was ex- 
posed in the mortuary for a period of eight days in a state of 
perfect preservation. Her face retained its colour, the limbs 
were supple, and the substance of the cornea transparent, whereas 
in ordinary cases decomposition shows itself on the third day. 
The parents could not reconcile themselves to have their daughter 
buried, and found themselves much troubled. Finally, on the 
ninth day, the supposed dead suddenly awoke, without any pre- 
monitory indications of life." 


M. Gaubert, a very painstaking authority, in " Les 
Chambres Mortuaires d'Attente," says: 

" There was a case at Brussels in January, 1867, of a 
person who returned to life just as the bearers arrived 
at the mortuary. 

" 'A workman of the suburbs, employed by a firm of carriers^ 
fell ill, and in a few days died. This suddenness of the death 
caused doubts as to its reality, and after the usual delay he was 


taken to the mortuary connected with the cemetery. The body 
was left for a few days' observation. As soon as they arrived 
a noise escaped from the coffin, and arrested the attention of 
the people present. At once they hastened towards the coffin, 
and tried to restore him, and in a short time he came to life. 
The same evening he was able to return to his home. On the 
following day he went himself to the authorities to annul the 
record of his supposed death.'" (P. 182.) 

M. Gaubert continues : " We have collected in 
Germany fourteen cases of apparent death followed by 
return to life in mortuaries, in spite of all that has 
been done for the prevention of such occurrences.'* 
(P. 182.) 


Dr. E. Bouchut, in " Signes de la Mort," third 
edition, p. 50, writes : 

"An apothecary's assistant had an attack of syncope, which 
continued for eight days, when he was apparently dead, and was 
removed to the mortuary of the Military Hospital, Cassel, where he 
was covered with a coarse wrapper and left amongst the dead. 
The following night he awoke from his lethargy, and, on recog- 
nising the horrible place where he was, dragged himself to the 
door and kicked against it. The noise was heard by the sentinel, 
aid arrived, and the patient was put in a warm bed, where he 

Dr. Bouchut says that if he had been swathed in 
tight bandages his efforts at release would have been 
futile, and he would have been buried alive. 


Dr. Roger S. Chew, of Calcutta, has forwarded the 
following cases to the author as the results of his own 
personal experience : 



"A sowar i.e., native trooper of the 7th regiment of cavalry, 
in 1878, carrying despatches at Nowshera, was thrown from his 
horse, and, falling with his head against a sharp stone in the road, 
rolled on his back, in which position he was found some six or 
seven hours after, and conveyed to the mortuary of the European 
Depot Hospital pending removal to the 'lines' of his own corps. 
There was very little haemorrhage, and the stone was still wedged 
in between the temporo-parietal suture. Cardiac sounds and 
respiratory murmurs could not be detected. The limbs were 
perfectly rigid, and there was a good deal of cadaveric ecchymosis 
to be distinctly seen. Nothing would have convinced anyone that 
the sowar was still alive, and Surgeons-Major Hunter, Gibson, and 
Briggs, Apothecary S. Pollock, Assistant-Surgeon J. Lewis, and" 
myself, verily believed he was stone-dead. As 'cause of death' is 
what the army is exceedingly particular about, Surgeon- Major 
Hunter removed the impacted stone and lifted out portions of the 
fractured bone (prior to holding a proper post-mortem\ when to the 
surprise of all of us 'the corpse' deliberately closed its eyes (which 
were staring open when the body was first brought in), and there 
was a slight serous haemorrhage. On noticing this, the sowar's 
head was trephined no chloroform or other anaesthetic being 
used some more fragments of bone and a large blood-clot that 
pressed on the brain were removed, and, as the sowar repeatedly 
flinched under this operation, a. stimulant was poured down his 
throat, and he was removed to his regimental hospital, from which 
he was discharged 'well' some six months and a half later. After 
this he did good service in the Afghan and Egyptian campaigns." 

"Sergeant J. Clements Twining, of H.M.'s logth regiment of 
British infantry, located at Dinapoor in 1876, was brought in an 
unconscious state to the hospital, supposed to be suffering from 
coup de soleil. Everything that could be done was ineffectually 
tried to rouse him from coma, and he was removed to the dead- 
house to wait post-mortem next morning. At two a.m. the sentry 
on the dead-house came rushing down to the dispensary (about 
four hundred and fifty yards off) declaring that he had seen and 
heard a ghost in the dead-house, to which myself and the com- 
pounder and dresser on duty at once proceeded, to find that 
Clements Twining, who was now partially conscious, was lying on 


the dead-house flags groaning most piteously he had rolled off 
the table on to the floor. He returned to health, and in 1877 
accompanied his regiment to England, where I met him at 
Woolwich in 1883, and he asked me to corroborate his story of 
'returning to life' to certain of his acquaintances who had refused 
to believe him." 


A correspondent signing himself " T. E. N.," in 
To-Day, October 12, 1895, says : 

" When acting as special correspondent to the Evening 
Herald in Hamburg during the cholera plague, I met a gentle- 
man v/ho had been passed for dead and placed in the mortuary 
to await burial. When the porters entered some hours later to 
remove the hundred or so bodies, they found this gentleman 
sitting up in great pain, and very much frightened. He was 
placed in a ward, and recovered. 

"About the same time a little girl came to life actually at 
the graveside. She had been brought in one of several four- 
horse vans that conveyed bodies for interment in the Ohlsdorff 
graveyard. Fortunately for her, she had not been placed in a 
coffin, the exigencies of the time rendering it impossible to 
provide caskets for the dead. When the disease began to die 
out, the people found time to ask ' Can it be possible that life 
remains in any of the bodies buried?' That the doctors in the 
latter days cut the ulnar arteries of all subjects before passing 
them for dead is full of significance." 


The Undertakers' Review, January 22, 1894, reports 
that : 

" Lena Fellows, aged twenty-two years, a servant in the employ 
of A. R. Knox, of Buffalo, fell dead, as was thought, while at 
work on December 8. The remains were taken to the morgue 
in a coffin, but next morning when Morgue-Keeper M'Shane 
began to lift the supposed corpse into the refrigerator he found 
that the woman was alive. It was a case of catalepsy." 


Dr. J. M. Duncan, of Kansas City, U.S.A., in an 
instructive article in the Medical Brief, August, 1897, 
relates the following remarkable experiences : 

"In 1865 I was on duty in a United States field hospital. On 
May 15 a soldier in one of the hospitals died. His body was 
bathed, prepared, and carried to the mortuary. At daybreak 
next morning he was found sitting upright, was taken back to 
the ward, and made a good recovery. This soldier said that 
while the nurses were dressing him he tried to kick them, and 
in every way tried to make them know he was not dead ; but 
could not move. All night, as he lay in the dead-house, he 
kept trying to break the spell, realising fully that he must get 
a move on him or be buried alive next day. He distinctly 
heard everything as usual, could see things before him, and his 
sense of feeling was perfectly normal. As twilight began to 
appear in the east, he was feeling chilly and felt like sneezing, in 
the effort of which he caught his breath, and raised himself up." 


The following incident caused a great deal of 
comment at the time, and suggested to many that 
other cases of suspended animation might have a 
less fortunate issue : 

" Ernest Wicks, a boy two years old, was found lying on the 
grass in Regent's Park apparently dead, and resuscitated in St. 
Marylebone Mortuary (after being laid out on a slab as dead) in 
September, 1895, by the keeper, Mr. Ellis, assisted by Mrs. 
Ellis. When the doctor arrived, the child was breathing freely, 
though still insensible. The child was taken to the Middlesex 
Hospital, and was reported by the surgeon to be recovering 
from a fit." 

A correspondent writes us as follows, on February 

27, 1903 : 

" The husband of an old servant of ours underwent an opera- 
tion in the Brompton Hospital. He was supposed to have died, 


and was therefore taken to the mortuary. Fortunately for him, 
he gave signs of life before being buried, and is, I believe, alive 

The Progres du Nord, April 2, 1 894, reports : 

" M. Vangiesen, aged eighty-one years, awakened from 
supposed death on the flagstones of the mortuary at the Charite 
Hospital at Lille." 

H. L. Kerthomas, in " Dernieres Considerations sur 
les Inhumations Precipitees," Lille, 1852, p. 17, relates 
'that : 

"At a hospital in Liege two house-surgeons were at the 
* Salles des decades' in pursuance of their anatomical studies 
when, hearing at one side of them a noise like stifled breathing, 
great was their fear ! Still, they coolly finished their examination, 
and then discovered the supposed corpse moving convulsively 
amongst his dead companions ; but, thanks to efficient help, he 
was completely restored to health.''' (The above occurred in 

Enough evidence has been given to justify our 
contention that upon every ground moral, social, 
sanitarian, humane, and economical the British nation 
should seriously take this matter up, and see to it that 
Parliament be urged to pass, without further delay, a 
measure which shall ordain that waiting mortuaries of 
the character we have described be erected in every 
sanitary district throughout the kingdom. 


IT has been our endeavour to present in a concise 
form the salient facts connected with the important 
subject which forms the title of this work. It would 
have been easy to fill a much larger volume than this 
with reports of authentic cases of premature burial 
and narrow escapes from such terrible mischances, and 
with more detailed results of the authors' researches on 
the subject in various parts of Europe and America, as 
well as in the East. The cases adduced to illustrate 
the text are, however, presented as types of hundreds 
of others obtainable from equally reputable sources, 
and to be found in the works of various trustworthy 
authorities, the titles of which can be seen in the 
Bibliography at the end of this volume. 

We herewith append a summary of the chief points 
we have presented, and which we have sought to sub- 
stantiate as far as the limited space will allow: 

1 i ) Death - Counterfeits. That trance, catalepsy, 
and other forms of death-counterfeit, arising from 
exhausting illnesses and diseases, from loss of blood 
and various nervous derangements, from extreme con- 
ditions of temperature, drugs, drowning, still-birth, etc., 
are of such mysterious and deceptive character that 
we are led to the conclusion that they may easily be 
mistaken for real death. 

(2) Tragic Results. That mistakes of this nature 
have occurred in numerous instances. That not only 


have persons been buried alive, as proved by subsequent 
exhumations, but that in many instances, in this and 
other countries, many have revived after having been 
supposed to be dead by their relatives and attendant 

(3) Justifiable Fear, That a natural dread exists 
in the minds of many persons lest they should fall 
victims to such a terrible mistake. That this has 
been evidenced by the numerous directions laid down 
in the wills of perfectly sane and even of notable 
persons, which provide against any possible resuscita- 
tion in the hopeless tomb. That this fear has been 
likewise manifested by the offer of substantial prizes 
by scientists and by learned societies for the most 
approved method of diagnosing between latent life 
and actual death. That the dread has been further 
shown by the several inventions, such as safety coffins 
and safety graves, which have been seized upon by 
the public in the hope of protecting them from the 
most awful of all deaths. 

(4) Legal Hindrances. That the formalities associ- 
ated with the disinterment of a body, or even the 
opening of a coffin, whether in England or abroad, 
and the slavish acceptance of and obedience to 
medical certification given under exceedingly lax 
conditions, are fraught with dangerous possibilities to 
the living and to the apparently dead. 

(5) Special Risks. That the risk of premature 
burial is especially serious in France, in Spain and 
Portugal, in the west of Ireland, in both European 


and Asiatic Turkey, and in India ; also among the 
Jews, where both the Jewish law and ancient custom 
enjoin burial within a few hours of death, and for 
similar reasons in all oriental countries, and in the 
Southern States of North America. 

(6) Illusory Nature of Death Signs. That the 
various signs which are supposed to indicate death, 
such as the cessation of respiration and of cardiac 
action, a pale, waxy, and death-like appearance, a 
stiffening of the limbs, or rigor mortis, insensibility 
to cutaneous excitation, the departure of heat from 
the body, are singly and collectively illusory ; the 
only safe and infallible test of dissolution being the 
manifestation of putrefaction in the abdomen. 

(7) Death-Certificates. That the present method of 
granting a death-certificate in this country is most 
unsatisfactory, seeing that the medical attendant is 
relieved from the necessity of viewing the supposed 
dead before giving it, and that every year some 
ten thousand death-certificates are accepted by the 
Registrar- General in which the cause of death is not 
even stated. If the legislature enacted that the 
certifying medical man shall in every instance examine 
the body of the alleged dead person, and shall state 
upon his certificate the grounds upon which he bases 
his judgment, as the result of such personal examina- 
tion (for which a small fee, as in the case of 
notification, might be paid by the local authority), a 
greater safeguard of life would be ensured than is 
possible under the lax system which at the present 
time is allowed by law. 


(8) Definite Medical Training. That there should 
be systematic medical instruction (which does not 
exist at the present time) during the course of train- 
ing at our medical schools and colleges upon the 
phenomena of trance, catalepsy, syncope, and other 
forms of suspended animation ; and that knowledge 
of definite tests necessary to the prevention of pre- 
mature burial be demanded in all examinations for 
medical diplomas and degrees. 

(9) A Real Danger. That, in view of the numerous 
authentic instances of premature coffinment, premature 
burial, and narrow escapes, which have been collected 
together, we are forced to the conclusion that these 
instances can but represent large numbers of other 
cases which have never been, and, by the very nature 
of the circumstances, could never be, brought to light. 

(10) Other Risks. That even embalming, dissecting, 
and cremation are each and all accompanied by risks 
to life unless the precaution is first taken of ascertain- 
ing that life has really ceased to exist. 

(11) The Only Real Safeguard. That no evidence 
of death is really satisfactory except that which is 
supplied by putrefaction, usually evidenced by the 
change of colour in the abdomen. That to ensure 
this safeguard waiting mortuaries should be erected 
by every sanitary authority in the kingdom at public 
expense, such as are provided at Munich, Weimar, 
Stuttgart, and other German cities, furnished with 
every appliance for resuscitation, watched by qualified 
attendants, and in telephonic communication with a 


medical superintendent, who shall be authorised to 
grant the removal of the body to the cemetery only 
when the fact of death has been unequivocally estab- 
lished by the sign of decomposition. 

(12) An Appeal. If the foregoing conclusions are 
established, and we believe such to be the case, the 
need for immediate action is urgent and imperative, 
and the prompt intervention of Parliament should be 
at once invoked. May we hope for the cordial co- 
operation of all classes and all sections on a question 
on which the whole community have a deep and vital 
interest, and on which procrastination will certainly be 
fatal to some of its members? It is not an academic 
question, but one of the gravest practical character, 
the earnest consideration and treatment of which 
cannot be neglected with impunity. 





FROM the time of Kornmann, Terilli, and Zacchia (see Bibliography, 
seventeenth century), certain notable instances have been cited from 
old authors of restoration from apparent death with a good deal of 
uniformity in essays or theses on this subject. One of the most con- 
venient (to English readers) of these compilations is to be found in an 
anonymous essay, "The Uncertainty of the Signs of Death," Dublin, 
1748 (printed by George Faulkner), from which the following extracts 
are taken verbatim : 

Plutarch informs us that a certain person fell irom an eminence but 
did not show the least appearance of any wound ; for, three days after, 
he suddenly resumed his strength, and returned to life as his friends 
were conveying him to the grave. 

Asclepiades, a celebrated physician, on his return from his country 
seat met a large company conveying a corpse to the grave. A principle 
of curiosity induced him to ask the name of the deceased person ; but 
grief and sorrow reigned so universally that no one returned him answer ; 
upon which, approaching the corpse, he found the whole of it rubbed 
over Vfith perfumes, and the mouth moistened with precious balm, 
according to the custom of the Greeks ; then carefully feeling every part, 
and discovering latent signs of life, he forthwith affirmed that the 
person was not dead, and the person was saved. Celsus ii., 6, " De 
re Medica." 

In the tenth book of Plato's "Republic" is related the story of one 
Er, an Armenian, who was slain in battle. Ten days after, when the 
surviving soldiers came, with a view to inter the dead, they found all 
the bodies corrupted except his ; for which reason they conveyed him 
to his own house in order to inter him in the usual manner. But two 


' days after, to the great surprise of all present, he returned to life when 
laid on the funeral pile. Ouenstedt remarks upon this case, which he 
took from Kornmann's treatise " De Miraculis Mortuorum," "that the 
soul sometimes remains in the body when the senses are so fettered, 
and, as it were, locked up, that it is hard to determine whether a 
person is dead or alive." Pliny in his "Natural History," book vii., 
chap. 52, which treats of those who have returned to life when they 
were about to be laid in the grave, tells us that Acilius Aviola, a man 
of so considerable distinction that he had formerly been honoured with 
the consulship, returned to life when he was upon the funeral pile ; but 
as he could not be rescued from the violence of the flames he was 
burnt alive. The like misfortune also happened to Lucius Lamia, who 
had been praetor. These two shocking accidents are also related by 
Valerius Maximus. Celius Tubero had a happier fate than his two 
fellow-citizens, since, according to Pliny, he discovered the signs of life 
before it was too late. liis state, however, was far from eligible, since, 
being laid on the funeral pile, he stood a fair chance of being exposed 
to the like misfortune. Pliny, from the testimony of Varro, adds that 
when a distribution of land was making at Capua, a certain man, when 
carried a considerable way from his own house in order to be interred, 
returned home on foot. The like surprising accident also happened at 
Aquinum. The last instance of this nature related by the author 
occurred at Rome, and Pliny must, no doubt, have been intimately 
acquainted with all its most minute circumstances, since the person 
was one Cerfidius, the husband of his mother's sister, who returned to 
life after an agreement had been made for his funeral with the under- 
taker, who was probably much disappointed when he found him alive 
and in good health. 

These examples drawn from Roman history greatly contribute to 
establish the uncertainty of the signs of death, and ought to render us 
very cautious with respect to interments. 

Greece and Italy are not the only theatres in which such tragical 
events have been acted, since other countries of Europe also furnish us 
with instances of a like nature. Thus, Maximilian Misson, in his 
"Voyage Through Italy," tome i., letter 5, tells us 

" That the number of persons who have been interred as dead, when 
they were really alive, is very great in comparison with those who have 
been happily rescued from their graves ; for, in the town of Cologne, 
Archbishop Geron according to Albertus Krantzius was interred alive, 
and died for want of seasonable releasement." 


It is also certain that in the same town the like misfortune happened 
to Johannes Duns Scotus, who in his grave tore his hands and wounded 
his head. Misson also relates the following : 

" Some years ago the wife of one Mr. Mervache, a goldsmith of Poictiers r 
being buried with some rings on her fingers, as she had desired when dying, a 
poor man of the neighbourhood, being apprised of that circumstance, next 
night opened the grave in order to make himself master of the rings, but as 
he could not pull them off without some violence, he in the attempt waked 
the woman, who spoke distinctly, and complained of the injury done her. 
Upon this, the robber made his escape. The woman, now roused from 
an apoplectic fit, rose from her coffin, returned to her own house, and 
in a few days recovered a perfect state of health." 

What induced Misson to relate these histories was a certain piece. of 
painting preserved in the church of the Holy Apostles at Cologne, in order 
to keep up the memory of a certain accident, which that traveller relates 
in the following manner : 

"In the year 1571, the wife of one of the magistrates of Cologne 
being interred with a valuable ring on one of her fingers, the grave- 
digger next night opened the grave in order to take it off, but we may 
readily suppose that he was in no small consternation when the sup- 
posed dead body squeezed his hand, and laid fast hold of him, in order 
to get out of her coffin. The thief, however, disengaging himself, 
made his escape with all expedition ; and the lady, disentangling herself 
in the best manner she could, went home and knocked at her own door, 
where, after shivering in her shroud, after some delay she was admitted by 
the terror-stricken servants ; and, being warmed and treated in a proper 
manner, completely recovered." 

Simon Goubart, in his admirable and memorable histories, printed at 
Geneva in 1628, relates the following accident: "A lady, whose name 
was Reichmuth Adoloh, was supposed to fall a victim to a pestilence, which 
raged with such impetuous fury as to cut off most of the inhabitants of 
Cologne. Soon after, however, she not only recovered her health, but 
also brought into the world three sons, who, in process of time, were 
advanced to livings in the Church." 

" The town of Dijon, in Burgundy, was, in the year 1558, afflicted with 
a violent plague, which cut off the inhabitants so fast that there was not 
time for each dead person to have a separate grave ; for which reason 
large pits were made and filled with as many bodies as they could contain. 
In this deplorable conjuncture, Mrs. Nicole Tentillet shared the 
common fate, and after labouring under the disorder for some days, fell 


into a syncope so profound that she was taken for dead, and accord- 
ingly buried in a pit with the other dead bodies. The next morning 
after her interment she returned to life, and made the strongest effiorts 
to get out, but was held down by the weight of the bodies with which 
she was covered. She remained in this wretched condition for four 
days, when the grave-diggers took her out and carried her to her own 
house, where she recovered perfectly." Following this case, that of a 
labouring man of Courcelles, near Neuchfitel, is narrated. He fell into 
so profound syncope that he was taken for dead ; but the persons who 
were putting him into his grave, without a coffin, perceived some motion 
in his shoulders, for which reason they carried him to his own home, 
where he perfectly recovered. This accident laid the foundation for his 
being called the ghost of Courcelles. 

"A lawyer of Vesoul, a town of Franche-Comte, near Besan9on, so 
carefully concealed a lethargy, to which he was subject, that nobody 
knew anything of his disorder, though the paroxysms returned very fre- 
quently. The motive which principally induced him to this secrecy was 
the dread of losing a lady to whom he was just about to be married. 
Being afraid, however, lest some paroxysm should prove fatal to him, 
he communicated his case to the sheriff of the town, who, by virtue of 
his office, was obliged to take care of him if such a misfortune should 
happen. The marriage was concluded, and the lawyer for a consider- 
able time enjoyed a perfect state of health, but at last was seized with 
so violent a paroxysm of the disease that his lady, to whom he had 
not revealed the secret, not doubting his death, ordered him to be put 
in his coffin. The sheriff, though absent when the paroxysm seized 
him, luckily returned in time to preserve him ; for he ordered the inter- 
ment to be delayed, and the lawyer, returning to life, survived the 
accident sixteen years." 

Another case is that of a certain person who was conveyed to the 
church in order to be interred, but one of his friends sprinkling a large 
quantity of holy water on his face, which was covered, he not only 
returned to life, but also resumed a perfect state of health. 

This writer subjoins other histories of persons who, being interred 
alive, have expired in their graves and tombs, as has afterwards been 
discovered by various marks made, not only in their sepulchres, but 
also in their own bodies. He in a particular manner mentions a young 
lady of Auxbourg, who, falling into a syncope, in consequence of a 
suffocation of the matrix, was buried in a deep vault, without being 
covered with earth, because her friends thought it sufficient to have the 


vault carefully shut up. Some years after, however, one of the family 
happened to die ; the vault was opened, and the body of the young lady 
found on the stairs at its entry, without any fingers on the right hand. 
It is recorded in "Tr. de Acre et Alim. defect.," cap. vii., that a 
certain woman was hanged, and in all appearances was dead, who was 
nevertheless restored to life by a physician accidentally coming in and 
ordering a plentiful administration of sal ammoniac. 

Another case of hanging is the story of Anne Green, executed at 
Oxford, December 14, 1650. She was hanged by the neck for half an hour, 
some of her friends thumping her on the breast, others hanging with all 
their weight upon her legs, and then pulling her down again with a 
sudden jerk, thereby the sooner to despatch her out of her pain. After 
she was in her coffin, being observed to breathe, a lusty fellow stamped 
w'ith all his force on her breast and stomach to put her out of pain. But 
by the assistance of Dr. Petty, Dr. Willis, Dr. Bathurst, and Dr. Clark, 
she was again brought to life. 

Kornmann, in his treatise " De Miraculis Mortuorum," relates the 
following history: "Saint Augustine, from Saint Grille, informs us that 
a cardinal of the name of Andrew, having died in Rome in the presence 
of several bystanders, was next day conveyed to the church, where the 
Pope and a body of the clergy attended service in order to do honour to 
his memory. But to their great surprise, after some groans, he recovered 
his life and senses. This event was at the time looked upon as a miracle, 
and ascribed to Saint Jerome, to whom the cardinal was greatly 

The following account seems more to resemble a miracle, though we do 
not find that it was looked upon as such: " Gocellinus, a young man, 
and nephew to one of the Archbishops of Cologne, falling into the 
Rhine, was not found for fifteen days after, but was discovered to be 
alive as he lay before the shrine of Saint Guibert." 

Persons curious or incredulous upon the dangers of precipitate burials 
may, for their satisfaction, have recourse to the medical observations of 
Forestus ; those of Amatus Lusitanus; the chirurgical observations of 
William Fabri ; the treatise of Levinus Lemnius on the secret miracles 
of Nature ; the observations of Schenkins ; the medico-legal questions of 
Paul Zacchias ; Albertinus Bottonus's treatise of the Disorders of Women ; 
Terilli's treatise on the Causes of Sudden Death ; Lancisi's^reatise Con- 
cerning Deaths, and Kornmann's treatise on the Miracles of the Dead. 
These authors furnish us with a great variety of the most palpable and 
flagrant instances of the uncertainty of the signs of death. 


Physicians of the earlier ages knew that there were disorders which so 
locked up or destroyed the external senses that the patients labouring 
under them appeared to be dead. According to Mr. Le Clerc, in his 
" History of Medicine," Diogenes Laertius informs us "that Empedocles 
was particularly admired for curing a woman supposed to be dead, though 
that philosopher frankly acknowledged that her disorder was only a 
suffocation of the matrix, and affirmed that the patient might live in that 
state (the absence of respiration) for thirty days." 

Mr. Le Clerc, in the work already quoted, tells us that " Heraclides 
of Pontus wrote a book concerning the causes of diseases, in which he 
affirmed that in certain disorders a patient is without respiration for 
thirty days, and that they appeared dead in every respect, except cor- 
ruption of the body." 

To these authorities we may add that of Pliny, who, after mentioning 
the lamentable fate of Aviola and Lamia, affirms " That such is the 
condition of humanity, and so uncertain the judgment men are capable 
of forming of things, that even death itself is not to be trusted to." 

Colerus, in " Oeconom," part vi. , lib. xviii,, cap. 113, observes 
" That a person as yet not really dead may, for a long time, remain 
apparently in that state without discovering the least signs of life; and 
this has happened in the times of the plague, when a great many persons 
interred have returned to life in their graves." Authors also inform us 
that the like accident frequently befalls women seized with a suffocation 
of the matrix (hysteria). 

Forestus, in " Obs. Med.," 1. xvii., obs. 9, informs us "That drowned 
persons have returned to life after remaining forty-eight hours in the 
water ; and sometimes women, buried during a paroxysm of the hysteric 
passion, have returned to life in their graves ; for which reason- it is 
forbidden in some countries to bury the dead sooner than seventy- two 
hours after death." This precaution of delaying the interment of persons 
thought to be dead is of a very ancient date, since Plato ordered the 
bodies of the dead to be kept till the third day, in order to be satisfied 
of the reality of death. 

The burial customs of the ancients often included steps that were 
taken as a precaution against mistaking the living for the dead. Indeed 
the fear of such an accident seems to have always been entertained as 
a thing liable to occur in every case of seeming death. The embalming 
process employed by the Egyptians was a surgical test of the kind. 
The abdomen was first opened in order to remove the intestines, and 
some startling experiences must have been had in consequence of the 


incisions required for this operation, because it was customary for the 
friends and relatives of the deceased to throw stones at the persons- 
employed in embalming as soon as the work was over, owing to the 
horror with which they were struck upon witnessing what must have 
been at times a cruel proceeding. 

The funeral ceremonies used in the Caribbee Islands are, in a great 
measure, conformable to reason. They wash the body, wrap it up in a 
cloth, and then begin a series of lamentations and discourses calculated 
to recall the deceased to life, by naming all the pleasures and privileges 
he has enjoyed in the world, saying over and over again, "How comes 
it, then, that you have died?" When the lamentations are over, they 
place the body on a small seat, in a grave about four or five feet deep, 
and for ten days present aliments to it, entreating it to eat. Then, 
convinced that it would neither eat nor return to life, they, for its 
obstinacy, throw the victuals on its head, and cover up the grave. It 
is evident from the practices of this people that they wait so long before 
they cover the body with earth because they have had instances of 
persons recalled to life by these measures. 

Lamentations of a similar kind were employed by the Jews and 
Romans, as well as by the ancient Prussians and the inhabitants of 
Servia, founded doubtless upon similar experiences. 

The Thracians, according to Herodotus, kept their dead for only three 
days, at the end of which time they offered up sacrifices of all kinds, 
and, after bidding their last adieu to the deceased, either burned or 
interred their bodies. 

According to Quenstedt, the ancient Russians laid the body of the 
dead person naked on a table, and washed it for an hour with warm 
water. Then they put it into a bier, which was set in the most public 
room in the house. On the third day they conveyed it to the place of 
interment, where, the bier being opened, the women embraced the body 
with great lamentations. Then the singers spent an hour in shouting 
and making a noise in order to recall it to life ; after which it was let 
down into the grave and covered with earth. So that this people used 
the test of warm water, that of cries, and a reasonable delay, before 
they proceeded to the interment. 

In the laws and history of the' Jews there is but one regulation with 
respect to interment (in the twenty-first chapter of Deuteronomy), where 
the Jewish legislator orders persons hanged to be buried the same day. 
From this one is led to infer that the funeral ceremonies, as handed 
down from Adam, were otherwise perfect and unexceptionable. The 
25 - 


bier used by the Jews, on which the body was laid, was not shut at the 
top, as our coffins are, as is obvious from the resurrection of the widow's 
son of Nain, recorded in the seventh chapter of Luke, where these 
words occur: "And he came and touched the bier, and they that bare 
him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise ; and 
he that was dead sat up and began to speak." 

Gierus and Calmet inform us that the body, before its interment, lay 
for some days in the porch or dining-room of the house. According 
to Maretus, it was probably during this time that great lamentations 
were made, in which the name of the deceased was intermixed with 
mournful cries and groans. 

Mr. Boyer, member of the Faculty at Paris, observes that such 
lamentations are still used by the Eastern Jews, and even by the Greeks 
who embrace the articles of the Greek Church. These people hire 
women to weep and dance by turns round the body of the dead person, 
whom they interrogate with respect to the reasons they had for dying. 

Lanzoni, a physician of Ferrara, informs us that " when any person 
among the Romans died, his nearest relatives closed his mouth and 
eyes, and when they saw him ready to expire they caught his last words 
and sighs. Then calling him aloud three times by his name, they bade 
him an eternal adieu." This ceremony of calling the name of the dying 
person was called Conclamation, a custom that dates prior to the 
foundation of Rome, and was only abolished with paganism. 

Propertius acquaints us with the effect they expected from the first 
Conclamation since there were several of them. He introduces Cynthia 
as saying, "Nobody called me by my name at the time my eyes were 
closing, and I should have enjoyed an additional day if you had 
recalled me to life." 

Conclamations were made also by trumpets and horns, blown upon 
the head, into the ears, and upon the neck and chest, so as to penetrate 
all the cavities of the body, into which, as the ancients imagined, the 
soul might possibly make her retreat. 

Quenstedt and Casper Barthius, in "Advers.," lib. xxxvii., ch. 17, 
tells us that it was customary among the ancients to wash the bodies 
of their dead in warm water before they burned them, "that the heat 
of the water might rouse the languid principle of life which might 
possibly be left in the body." 

By warm water we are to understand boiling water, as is obvious 
from the copious steam arising from the vessel represented in pieces 
of statuary in such instances : as also from the Sixth Book of Virgil's 


"/Eneid" "Some of the companions of ^Eneas, with boiling water 
taken from brazen vessels, wash the dead body, and then anoint it." 

" A correspondent of the late Dr. Hawes assures us that there was 
then living in Hertfordshire a lady of an ancient and honourable family 
whose mother was brought to life after interment by the attempt of a 
thief to steal a valuable ring from her finger. (See Reports of the 
Royal Humane Society for 1787-88-89, p. 77.) Whether it was the 
same or not I cannot say, but Lady Dryden, who resided in the 
southern part of Northamptonshire, in consequence of some such event 
having occurred in her family, expressly directed in her will that her 
body should have the throat cut across previous to interment ; and to 
secure this bequeathed fifty pounds to an eminent physician, who 
actually performed it." Dr. Curry's "Observations on Apparent Death," 
p. 1 06. 

Dr. Elliotson refers to a case of a female who was pronounced to be 
dead. Her pulse could not be felt, and she was put into a coffin ; and 
as the coffin lid was being closed they observed a sweat break out, and 
thus saw that she was alive. She recovered completely, and then stated 
that she had been unable to give any signs of life whatever ; that she 
was conscious of all that was going on around her ; that she 
heard everything ; and that, when she found the coffin lid about to be 
put on, the agony was dreadful beyond all description, so that it 
produced the sweat seen by the attendants. 


In two cases related by the late Mr. Braid, of Manchester, "the 
patients remained in the horrible condition of hearing various remarks 
about their death and interment. All this they heard distinctly without 
having the power of giving any indication that they were alive, until 
some accidental abrupt impression aroused them from their lethargy, and 
rescued them from their perilous situation. On one of these occasions, 
what most intensely affected the feelings of the entranced subject, as 
she afterwards communicated to my informant, was hearing a little 
sister, who came into the room where she was laid out for dead, exulting 
in the prospect, in consequence of her death, of getting possession of a 
necklace of the deceased." In another instance, the patient remained in 
a cataleptic condition for fourteen days. During this period the visible 
signs of vitality were a slight degree of animal heat and appearance of 
moisture when a mirror was held close to her face. But although she 


had no voluntary power to give indication by word or gesture, never- 
theless she heard and understood all that was said and proposed to be 
done, and suffered the most exquisite torture from various tests applied 
to her. . . . There is hardly a more interesting chapter in the 
records of medical literature than the history of well-authenticated cases 
of profound lethargy or death-trance. Most of the reported cases in 
which persons in a state of trance are stated to have been consigned to- 
the horrors of a living burial may possibly be apocryphal. Still, on 
the other hand, there are unquestionably too many well-substantiated 
instances of the actual occurrence of this calamity, the horrors of which 
no effort of the imagination can exaggerate, and for the prevention of 
which no pains can be excessive and no precaution superfluous. 

The following is taken from "Memorials of the Family of Scott, ot 
Scott's Hall, in the County of Kent, with an Appendix of Illustrative 
Documents," by James Renat Scott, F. S. A., London, 1876, page 
225 : 

" Robert Scott, Esq., tenth (but sixth surviving) son of Sir Thomas 
Scott, of Scott's Hall, Knight, married Priscilla, one of the daughters 
of Sir Thomas Honywood, of Elmsmere, Knight, by whom he had nine 
children. Remarkable accidents happened to the said Robert Scott 
and Priscilla, his wife, before their marriage, at their marriage, and 
after their marriage, before they had children. At their marriage, 
which was in or about the year 1610, the said Robert Scott having 
forgot his wedding ring when they were to be married, the said Priscilla 
was married with a ring with death's head upon it. 

"Within a short time after they were married the said Robert Scott, 
and Priscilla, his wife, sojourning with Sir Edward at Austenhanger, 
the said Robert Scott, about Bartholomewtide, fell sick of a desperate 
malignant fever, and was given over for dead by all, insomuch as that 
he was laid forth, the pillows pulled from under him, the curtains 
drawn, and the chamber windows set open, and ministers spoke to to 
preach the funeral service, and a book called for his funeral that was 
to have been kept at Scott's Hall, where Sir John Scott, the eldest 
brother, then lived. At night he was watched with by his own servant, 
named Robins, and another servant in the house, and about midnight 
they sitting together by the fire in the chamber, the said Robins said 
to the other, ' Methinks my master should not be dead, I will go and 
try,' and presently starting up went to the bedside where his master 
laid, and hallooed in his ear, and laid a feather to his nostrils, and 
perceived that he breathed, upon which he called them up in the house, 


and they warmed clothes and rubbed him, and brought him to lile 
again. He lived afterwards to be upwards of seventy-two years of age, 
and to have nine children. 

' ' Another remarkable passage was that his wife, Priscilla, being then 
very sick also, they told her that he was dead. She answered that she 
did not believe that God would part them so soon. The said Priscilla, 
when born, was laid for dead, no one minding her, but all the women 
Avent to help her mother, who was then like to die after her delivery ; 
but at last an old woman, taking the child in her arms, carried it 
downstairs, and using means, brought her to life. The other women, 
missing the child, and hearing the old woman had carried her down to 
get life in her, laughed at her, as thinking it impossible to bring the 
child to life ; but in a little time she brought it into the chamber, 
to the amazement of them all, and said she might live to be an old 
woman; and so she did to the age of fifty-two, and had nine children." 

The following cases are from Mrs. Crowe's " Night Side of Nature," 
pp. 133-136: 

"Dr. Burns mentions a girl at Canton who lay in a trance, hearing 
very word that was said around her, but utterly unable to move a 
finger. She tried to cry out but could not, and supposed that she was 
really dead. The horror of finding that she was about to be buried at 
length caused a perspiration to appear on her skin, and she finally 
revived. She described that she felt that her soul had no power to act 
upon her body, and that it seemed to be in her body and out of it at 
the same time.'''' 

"Lady Fanshawe related the case of her mother, who, being sick of a 
fever, her friends and servants thought her deceased, and she lay in that 
state for two days and a night ; but Mr. Winslow, coming to comfort my 
father, went into my mother's room, and looking earnestly into her face, 
said, ' She was so handsome, and looked so lovely, that he could not 
think her dead,' and suddenly taking a lancet out of his pocket he cut 
the sole of her foot, which bled : upon this he immediately caused her 
to be removed to the bed again, and she opened her eyes, after rubbing 
and other restorative means, and came to life." 

" On the loth of January, 1717, Mr. John Gardner, a minister at Elgin, 
fell into a trance, and being to all appearances dead, he was put into a 
coffin, and on the second day was carried to the grave. But fortunately a 
noise being heard, the coffin was opened, and he was found alive and 
taken home again, where, according to the record, * he related many 
strange and amazing things which he had seen in the othe world.'" 


Under the head of "Suspended Animation: Cases of Recovery, etc.," 
the Report of the Royal Humane Society for 1816-17, PP- 48-50, copies 

the following : " A young lady, an attendant on the Prince?s of , 

after having been confined to her bed for a great length of time with a 
violent disorder, was at last, to all appearances, deprived of life. Her 
lips were quite pale, her face resembled the countenance of a dead 
person, and her body became cold. 

"She was removed from the room in which she died, was laid in a 
coffin, and the day of her funeral was fixed on. The day arrived, and, 
according to the custom of the country, funeral songs and hymns were 
sung before the door. Just as they were about to nail on the lid of the 
coffin a slight perspiration was observed to appear on the surface of 
her body. It grew greater every moment, and at last a kind of con- 
vulsive motion was observed in the hands and feet of the corpse. A 
few moments after, during which time fresh signs of returning life 
appeared, she at once opened her eyes and uttered a pitiable shriek. 
Physicians were quickly procured, and in the course of a few days she 
was considerably restored, and is probably alive at this day." 

The description which she herself gave of her situation is extremely 
remarkable, and forms a curious and authentic addition to psychology : 

"She said it seemed to her, as if in a dream, that she was really 
dead ; yet she was perfectly conscious of all that happened around her 
in this dreadful state. She distinctly heard her friends speaking, and 
lamenting her death at the side of her coffin. She felt them pull on 
the dead -clothes and lay her in it. This feeling produced a mental 
anxiety which was indescribable. She tried to cry, but her soul was 
without power and could not act on her body. She had the contradictory 
feeling as if she were in her body and yet not in it at one and the 
same time. It was equally impossible for her to stretch out her arms, 
or to open her eyes, or to cry. The internal anguish of her mind was, 
however, at its utmost height w r hen the funeral hymns began to be sung 
and w 7 hen the lid of the coffin was about to be nailed on. The thought 
that she was to be buried alive was the first one which gave activity 
to her soul, and caused it to operate on her corporeal frame." 

Related by Dr. Herz in the "Psychological Magazine," and transcribed 
by Sir Alexander Crichton in the introduction to his essay on "Mental 
Derangement." (2 vols., Lond., 1798.) 

" One of the most frightful cases extant is that of Dr. Walker, of 
Dublin, who had so strong a presentiment on this subject that he had 


actually written a treatise against the Irish custom of hasty burial. He 
himself subsequently died, as was believed, of a fever. His decease 
took place in the night, and on the following day he was interred. 
At this time Mrs. Bellamy, the once-celebrated actress, was in Ireland ; 
and as she had promised him, in the course of conversation, that she 
would take care he should not be laid in the earth till unequivocal signs 
of dissolution had appeared, she no sooner heard of what had happened 
than she took measures to have the grave reopened ; but it was 
unfortunately too late. Dr. Walker had evidently revived, and had 
turned upon his side ; but life was quite extinct." 

Mr. Horace Welby, in a chapter on " Premature Interment," says 
that "the Rev. Owen Manning, the historian of Surrey, during his 
residence at Cambridge University caught small-pox, and was reduced 
by the disorder to a state of insensibility and apparent death. The body 
was laid out and preparations were made for the funeral, when Mr. 
Manning's father, going into the chamber to take a last look at his 
son, raised the imagined corpse from its recumbent position, saying, ' I 
will give my poor boy another chance,' upon which signs of vitality 
were apparent. He was therefore removed by his friend and fellow- 
student, Dr. Heberden, and ultimately restored to health." " The Mys- 
teries of Life and Death," pp. 115, 116. 

A most conspicuous and interesting monument in St. Giles's Church, 
Cripplegate, London (where Cromwell was married and John Milton 
buried), is associated with a remarkable case of trance or catalepsy. 
In the chancel is a striking sculptured figure in memory of Constance 
Whitney, a lady of remarkable gifts, whose rare excellences are fully 
described in the tablet. She is represented as rising from her coffin. 
Welby, at p. 116, relates the story that she had been buried while in a 
state of suspended animation, but was restored to life through the 
cupidity of the sexton, which induced him to disinter the body to 
obtain possession of a valuable ring left upon her finger, which he 
concluded could be of no use to the wearer. A study of the facts of 
premature burial shows that the rifling of tombs and coffins to obtain 
valuables has in other instances revealed similar tragic occurrences. 

The often-cited case of Mrs. Goodman, one of those recalled to life 
by the sexton's attempt to remove a ring from the finger, is thus related 
in the " History of Bandon," by George Bennett : 

Hannah, wife of Rev. Richard Goodman, vicar of Ballymodan, 
Bandon, from 1692 to 1737, fell into ill-health, and apparently died. 


Two or three days after her decease the body was taken to Rosscar- 
bery Cathedral, and there laid in the family vault of the Goodmans. 
The attempt of the sexton to recover a valuable diamond ring from the 
finger is said to have been made at an early hour the next morning. 
Much violence was used, so that the corpse moved, yawned, and 
sat up. The sexton having fled in terror, leaving his lantern behind 
and the church door open, the lady in her shroud made her way out 
of the vault and through the church to the residence of her brother-in- 
law, the Rev. Thomas Goodman, which was just outside the churchyard. 
Having been admitted, after some delay and consternation, she was put 
to bed, and fell asleep soon after, her brother-in-law and his man-servant 
keeping watch over her until midday, when she awoke refreshed. She 
is said to have shown herself in the village in the afternoon, to have 
supped with the family in the evening, and to have set out for home 
on horseback next morning. She is said to have survived this episode 
for some years, and to have borne a son subsequent to it, who died at 
an advanced age at Innishannon, a village near Bandon. 

In Smith's "History of Cork,"' vol. ii., p. 428, the same incident is 
thus mentioned: "Mr. John Goodman, ot Cork, died in January, 
1747? aged about fourscore ; but what is remarkable of him, his 
mother was interred while she lay in a trance, having been buried in 
a vault, etc. . . . This Mr. Goodman was born some time after." 

Mr. Peckard, Master ot Magdalen College, Cambridge, in a work 
entitled " Further Observations on the Doctrine of an Intermediate 
State," mentions that Mrs. Godfrey, Mistress of the Jewel Office, and 
sister of the great Duke of Marlborough, is stated to have lain in a 
trance, apparently dead, for seven days, and was declared by her 
medical attendants to have been dead. Colonel Godfrey, her husband, 
would not allow her to be interred, or the body to be treated in the 
manner of a corpse ; and on the eighth day she awoke, without any 
consciousness of her long insensibility. 

The daughter of Henry Laurens, of South Carolina, the first President 
of the American Congress during the Revolutionary War, died when 
young of small-pox. At all events a medical certificate pronounced her 
dead, and she was shrouded and coffined for interment. It was 
customary in those days to confine the patient amidst red curtains with 
.closed windows. After the certificate of death had been duly made out, 
the curtains were thrown back and the windows opened. The fresh air 


revived the patient, who recovered and lived to a mature age. This 
circumstance occasioned on her father so powerful a dread of living 
interment that he directed by will that his body should be burnt, and 
enjoined on his children the performance of this wish as a sacred duty. 

Bouchut, in his " Signes de la Mort," p. 58, relates that the physician 
of Queen Isabella of Spain was treating a man during a dangerous 
illness, and as he went to see his patient one morning he was informed 
by the assistants that the man had died. He entered, and found the 
body, in the habit of the Order of St. Francis, laid out upon a board. 
Nothing daunted, he had him put back to bed in spite of the ridicule 
of those present, and the patient soon revived and fully recovered. 

The following cases are from Koppen (see Bibliography, I799) : 

Vienna, 1791. A castle guard (portitr) was in a trance for several 
days. His funeral was prepared, and he was placed in a coffin. All 
at once he unexpectedly opened his eyes and called out, " Mother, 
where is the coffee?" 

Halle, 1753. In the register of deaths at St. Mary's Church is the 
following entry: "Shoemaker Casper Koch was buried, aged eighty- 
one years. Thirty years ago he had died, to all appearances, and was 
put in a coffin, when suddenly, when they were about to bury him, he 
recovered his consciousness." 

Haag, Holland, 1785. The son of a cook died, and while the coffin 
was being carried to the graveyard he was heard to knock. On 
opening the coffin he was found alive. He was taken home and was 

In the " Cyclopaedia of Practical Medicine," edited by John Forbes, 
M.D., F.R.S., and others, 1847, vol. i., pp. 548, 549, is the following: 
"A remarkable instance of resuscitation after apparent death occurred in 
France, in the neighbourhood of Douai, in the year 1745, and is related 
by Rigaudeaux (Journal des Sfavans, 1749,), to whom the case was 
confided. He was summoned in the morning to attend a woman in 
labour, at a distance of about a league. On his arrival he was 
informed that she had died in a convulsive fit two hours previously. 
The body was already prepared for interment, and on examination he 
could discover no indications oi life. The os uteri was sufficiently 
-dilated to enable him to turn the child and deliver by the feet. The 
child appeared to be dead also ; but by persevering in the means of 
resuscitation for three hours they excited some signs of vitality, which 
encouraged them to proceed, and their endeavours were ultimately 


crowned with complete success. Rigaudeaux again carefully examined 
the mother, and was confirmed in the belief of her death ; but he found 
that, although she had been in that state for seven hours, her limbs 
retained their flexibility. Stimulants were applied in vain ; he took his 
leave, recommending that the interment should be deferred until the 
flexibility was lost. At five p.m. a messenger came to inform him 
that she had revived at half-past three. The mother and child were 
both alive three years after." 



THE danger of premature burial of still-born (apparently dead) infants- 
is clearly shown by the following quotation from Tidy's " Legal 
Medicine," part ii., page 253, from tables given on the authority of 
the British and Foreign Medical Review, No. ii., p. 235, based on 
eight millions of births. " It would appear that from one in eighteen 
to one in twenty births are still-born. Dr. Lever found that the 
proportion in his three thousand cases was one in eighteen. So 
notorious is it that a large number of these deaths could be averted 
that some legislation is urgently needed, requiring that still-borns, 
whose bodies weigh, say, not less than two pounds (the average weight 
about the sixth and seventh months at which children are viable), 
should not be buried without registration and a medical examination." 

Many instances can be found in current medical literature of still-born 
infants that have been revived by artificial respiration. Such cases not 
infrequently revive without any means being employed for their 
resuscitation ; but among the poor, who dispose of the new-born 
apparently dead in a hasty manner, they might be buried alive through 
carelessness. The use of mortuaries, where the seeming dead would be 
kept under observation until decomposition appears, would of course 
prevent such disasters. 

Struve, in the essay cited in the Bibliography (1802), says: 
"All still-born children should be considered as only apparently 
dead, and the resuscitative process ought never to be neglected. Some- 
times two hours or more will elapse before reanimation can be effected. 
An ingenious man-midwife, says Bruhier, was employed for several 


hours in the revival of an apparently still-torn child, and as his 
endeavours proved unavailing, he considered the subject really dead. 
Being, however, accidentally detained, he again turned his attention to 
the child, and by continuing the resuscitative method for some time it 
was unexpectedly restored to life" (p. 150). 

The following is one of Struve's most striking cases : 

A Mr. E. called in 18 to obtain a certificate of death for a 

still-born child of seven months' gestation. Arriving at the house, the 
doctor found the child laid upon a little straw and covered with a slight 
black shawl; this was one p.m., and the child had been there since 
five a.m. It was icy cold, and there was no heart sound nor 
respiration, but there was a slight muscular twitching over the region 
of the heart. The child was immersed in a hot bath and artificial 
respiration employed, but for twenty minutes the case seemed hopeless ; 
then the eyes opened and after continued effort the respirations began, 
laborious and interrupted at first, then normal by degrees. The child 
was saved, and became an accomplished violinist. 

The mortality and waste of infant life, particularly in large cities like 
Paris, London, Berlin, Vienna, and New York, is admitted by all 
investigators to be enormous. In France medical writers, in view of 
the small percentage of births to population, are waking up to the 
realisation that the State cannot afford the loss, and that, among other 
things, steps should be taken to resuscitate the still-born, so that none 
should be buried before unequivocal signs of death are manifested. 1 
The premature abandonmen of the still-born among the poorer classes 
in crowded cities is only too probable. There are also cases recorded 
which show a corresponding risk to infants who have survived their 
birth : 

The British Medical Journal ', January 21, 1871, p. 71, gives the 
following case, under the heading "Alive in a Coffin" : Stories of this 
kind are generally very apocryphal ; but the following reaches us from 
an authentic source. A child narrowly escaped being buried alive last 
week in Manchester. The infant's father had died, and was to be 
buried in Ardwick Cemetery. The day before the burial the infant was 
taken ill, and apparently died. A certificate of death was procured 
from a surgeon's assistant who had seen the child, and, to save expense, 

1 During the five years ending 1895 the population of France, where of all 
European countries premature burial is most in vogue, has increased by only 
JSS-Sig, or, leaving out the immigration of alien population, the increase is under 
30,000. The population for all practical purposes may be regarded as stationary. 


it was decided to place it in the same coffin with the father. This 
was done, and the next morning the bearers set off to the cemetery 
with their double burden ; but before reaching the graveyard a cry was 
heard to issue from the coffin. The lid being removed, the infant 
was discovered alive and kicking. It was at once removed to a 
neighbour's house, but died eight hours afterwards. 

The British Medical Journal, 1885, ii., p. 841, gives the following 
case, under the heading "Death or Coma?" 

"The close similarity which is occasionally seen to connect the 
appearance of death with that of exhaustion following disease was lately 
illustrated in a somewhat striking manner. An infant seized with con- 
vulsions was supposed to have died about three weeks ago at Stamford 
Hill. After five days' interval, preparations were being made for its 
interment when, at the grave's mouth, a cry was heard to come from 
the coffin. The lid was taken off, and the child was found to be alive; 
it was taken home, and is recovering."' 

The following is from Tidy's "Legal Medicine," part, i, p. 29: 

" In a communication to the French Academy, Professor Fort mentions 
a child (<cfat. three) having been resuscitated by artificial respiration 
continued for four hours, and not commenced until three and a half 
hours after its apparent decease. 

" Ogston records one case of a child alive for seven hours, and a 
second case of a young woman alive for four hours, after they had been 
left as dead." 

From the Lancet, April 22. 1882, p. 675 : 


"A daily contemporary states that at the gates of the Avignon 
cemetery the parents of a child, certified to have died of croup, insisted 
on having the coffin opened to take a last look. The child was found 
breathing, and is expected to be saved." 

The following letter to the editor of the Lancet, March 31, 1866, p. 
360, illustrates the danger to which infants believed to be dead are 
exposed under one of our traditional customs : 


" Sir, In your journal of last Saturday, among the ' Medical Annota- 
tions,' you notice the inquiry into the circumstances under which an 
infant, being still living and moving, was ' bandaged ' beneath the chin, 
and ' laid-out ' at St. Pancras Workhouse. Allow me to state that in 


the Lancet, vol. ii., 1850, a contribution from me 'On the Danger of 
Tying-up the Lower Jaw immediately after Supposed Death' was 
published. An infant, aged two months, was brought to me on a 
Friday with the lower jaw tied up by its mother, who asked for a 
certificate of death ; but on my removing the bandage the child began 
to show symptoms of vitality, and it lived until the following Monday. 

C. J. B. ALDIS, M.D., F.R.C.P. 
"Chester Terrace, Chester Square, March 26, 1866." 

It is recorded that Dr. Doddridge showed so little signs of life at 
his birth that he was laid aside as dead, but one of the attendants, 
observing some signs of life, took the baby under her charge, and by 
her judicious treatment perfectly restored it. 

Mr. Highmore, Secretary of the London Lying-in Hospital, by a 
communication to the Royal Humane Society, April, 1816, confirmed 
the statement of Mrs. Catherine Widgen, the matron of that excellent 
establishment, that, by a zealous perseverance in the means recommended 
by that Society, she had been the happy instrument of restoring from 
a state of apparent death in the space of three years no less than forty- 
five infants, who, but for her humane attention and indefatigable 
exertions, must have been consigned to the grave. Later on, Mrs. 
Widgen restored in one year twenty-seven apparently dead-born children 
a striking instance of the truth of the remark of a celebrated writer 
(Osiander) that "the generality of infants considered as still-born are 
only apparently so ; if, therefore, persons would persevere in their exertions 
to revive them most of them might be restored." "Report of the 
Royal Humane Society," 1816-17, pp. 52-54. 

" For these exertions the General Court adjudged the Honorary 
Medallion to Mrs. Widgen, and it was accordingly presented to her by 
His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent." Ibid.) p. 52. 

[The question natuarally suggests itself in this place : If the matron 
of such a noble institution as the above was able to save seventy-two 
apparently dead children from the grave in four years, how many of these 
poor little beings are consigned to the grave all over the world for 
lack of the "humane attention and indefatigable exertions" such as 
this skilful matron gave to those that came under her intelligent care?] 


"A child, who had a cough for some time, was suddenly attacked 
with difficulty of breathing, and to all appearances died. A medical 


gentleman immediately inflated the lungs, and by persisting in this for 
a considerable time recovered the child. A similar state of suspended 
animation took place three or four times, and inflation was as often had 
recourse to with the same success ; but the attack happening, unfortun- 
ately, to recur whilst the medical gentleman in whose family the case 
happened was from home, the proper measures were not taken, and 
the child was lost." Ibid., p. 140. 


"A boy was struck down by a flash 'of lightning near Hoxton (in the 
suburbs of London), and lay exposed to the rain at least an hour, until 
his companions carried him home on some boards, apparently dead 
the body being stiff and universally cold, the fingers and toes contracted, 
and the countenance livid. He was stripped of his wet clothes, put in 
hot blankets, and bled twenty ounces. In half an hour interrupted 
respiration commenced, without inflating the lungs ; in an hour more 
regular pulsation and breathing were established, together with power of 
swallowing; and in a week he was quite well." Ibid, p. 147. 

In the Lancet, 1884, vol. i., p. 922, W. Arnold Thomson, F.R. C.S.I., 
reports a case of resuscitation of a child delivered by the forceps, which 
was "apparently to myself [he says] and the nurse and relatives a per- 
fectly dead child, and with no signs of respiration or life about it. . . 
My opinion was that the death was real and positive, but that, there 
being no actual disease present, and the blood still warm, the machinery 
of life was set going, and resuscitation followed as a consequence of 
suitable means being taken and persevered in without undue delay. In 
the future I do not intend to allow any still-born children to be put 
away without making strenuous efforts to restore vitality." 

The Lancet, 1880, vol. ii., p. 582 : In a discussion at the Royal 
Medical and Chirurgical Society upon Artificial Respiration in New-born 
Children, Dr. Roper related three cases in which the child was left for 
dead. " One of these occurred in the practice of Mr. Brown, of St. 
Mary Axe. The child was still-born in the absence of a medical man. 
It was taken to the surgery, and thence to the late Mr. Solly, who next 
day, in dissecting the body, found that the heart was still beating. A 
second instance was of a fetus of five months and a half, which was 
set aside as dead, Dr. Roper attending the mother, who was suffering 
from hemorrhage. He was astonished next day to find that this 
immature child, which had lain on the floor for eleven hours through a 


cold night, was breathing and its heart beating. ..." Such examples 
show that the new-born have greater tenacity of life than is supposed. 

The Lancet, 1881. vol. ii., page 430, under the heading of " The Burial 
of Still-born Infants," states that " Greater security for the due observance 
of these necessary regulations (the Births and Deaths Registration Act 
of 1874) for the burial of infants said to be still-born is urgently called 
for. It is constantly patent that the burial of deceased infants as still- 
born, if checked, is by no means prevented ; and that the authorities of 
burial-grounds, by their laxity in carrying out the provisions of the Act, 
afford dangerous facilities for the concealment of crime, or negligence, 
and for a practice which threatens to impair the value of our birth and 
death registration statistics ; for, if a live-born infant be buried as still- 
born, neither its birth nor its death is registered." 

A case of forceps-delivery occurred in the hands of Dr. E. P. Vollum 
in which the child, when extracted, was quite purple in colour, and 
absolutely dead to all appearances there was no breathing nor impulse 
to be found anywhere. After some efforts at resuscitation in the way of 
artificial respiration not very thoroughly done, nor much prolonged (for 
the child was believed to be dead) with a warm bath and frictions, it 
was laid aside and covered up. At a subsequent visit, some hours later, 
the child was found in the nurse's lap completely recovered, and 
changed in colour to a bright pink. The nurse said she did not like 
to give the little fellow up, and by breathing into his mouth for some 
time he showed returning life, and by keeping it up he soon began to 
breathe himself. 

Cases like this are believed to be not infrequent, because physicians 
and nurses are not, as a general rule, aware of the great tenacity of life 
possessed by the new-born infant. 

" Still-births are not registered in England; but, under the New 
Registration Act, no still-born child can be buried without a certificate 
from a registered practitioner in attendance, or a declaration from a 
midwife, to the effect that the child was still-born. The proportion of 
still-births in this country is supposed to be about four per cent., but 
this is uncertain." A. Newsholme, "Vital Statistics," 1889, p. 61. 

" The proportion of deaths from premature births, compared with the 
total number of births, in 1861-65 was II ' I 9 to iooo births; since 
which time it has steadily increased, reaching the ratio of 15*89 per 
births in 1,000 in 1887." Ibid, p. 216. 

The same author, p. 17, states that "a certain proportion of the 


births remain unregistered (a). There is strong reason for thinking 
that a certain number of children born alive are buried as still-born." 

The editor has repeatedly restored "still-born" children, in whom no 
signs of life were apparent, by vigorous and continued artificial respira- 
tion and friction. It is to be presumed that in the hands of midwives 
many such lives have been lost. 


THIS is perhaps the best known and most generally appreciated occa- 
sion of rescuing the apparently dead. The high degree in which it has- 
excited public sympathy will appear from a glance at that section of the 
Bibliography (towards the end of the eighteenth century) which gives 
the titles of essays and reports connected with the Royal Humane Society 
and the corresponding foreign institutions upon which our own was 
modelled. The following general remarks and cases are from the essay 
of Dr. Struve, of Gorlitz, Lusatia, 1802 : 

" A great number of persons apparently drowned have been restored, 
to life without the use of stimulants, merely by the renovated suscepti- 
bility of irritation. I have collected thirty-six cases of persons apparently 
drowned in Lusatia from the year I77 2 to the year 1792. Most of them 
were treated by uninformed people, and revived by friction and warming; 
two persons, however, were indebted for their lives to the continuation 
of the resuscitative process for several hours. The greatest number 
were children; which is to be ascribed not only to the greater danger 
to which they are exposed of drowning, but also to the longer continu- 
ance of vital power in the infant frame" (p. 136). 

' ' A boy of about a year and a half old had lain upwards of a quarter 
of an hour in the water, and was found face downwards, and the whole 
body livid and swollen. He was undressed, wiped dry, and wrapped in 
warm blankets; but the most particular part of the process was rolling 
the body upon a table, shaking it by the shoulders, and rubbing the feet. 
This having been continued for an hour, a convulsive motion was 
observed in the toes; sneezing was excited by snuff; the tongue stimu- 
lated by strong vinegar; the throat irritated with a feather; an injection 


given. The child vomited a large quantity of water, and in an hour 
afterwards began to breathe, and was completely restored to life." 

(P- 137). 

"A woman upwards of thirty years of age, and who was affected with 
epilepsy, fell in a fit from a height of twenty feet into the water, where 
she remained a full quarter of an hour before she was taken out. Mr. 
Redlich, surgeon, of Hamburg, had her put into a bed warmed by hot 
bottles; she was rubbed with warm flannels, some spirits were dropped 
into her mouth, when in a quarter of an hour symptoms of life, such as 
convulsive motion and a very weak pulse, appeared. In three hours 
from the time she was taken out of the water she recovered completely." 
(p. 138). . 

Dr. Charles Londe, in a remarkable pamphlet (Lettre sur la Mort 
Apparente, les Consequences Reelles des Inhumations Precipitees, et le 
Temps pendant lequel peut persister 1'eptitude a etre rapele a la Vie." 
Paris, Bailliere, 1854), records some instances of narrow escapes from 
premature burial <5f the drowned, one of which may be cited : 

" On the 1 3th of July, 1829, about two p.m., near the Pont des Arts, 
Paris, a body, which appeared lifeless, was taken out of the river. It 
was that of a young man, twenty years of age, dark complexioned, and 
strongly built. The corpse was discoloured and cold ; the face and lips 
swollen and tinged with blue ; a thick and yellowish froth exuded from 
the mouth; the eyes were open, fixed, and motionless; the limbs limp 
and drooping. No pulsation of the heart nor trace of 1 es pi ration was 
perceptible. The body had remained under water for a considerable 
time; the search for it, made in Dr. Bourgeois's presence, lasted fully 
twenty minutes. That gentleman did not hesitate to incur the derision 
of the lookers-on by proceeding to attempt the resuscitation of what, in 
their eyes, was a mere lump of clay. Nevertheless, several hours after- 
wards, the supposed corpse was restored to life, thanks to the obstinate 
perseverance of the doctor, who, although a strong man and enjoying 
robust health, was several times on the point of losing courage and 
abandoning the patient in despair. But what would have happened if Dr. 
Bourgeois, instead of persistently remaining stooping over the inanimate 
body, with watchful eye and attentive ear., to catch the first rustling of 
the heart, had left the drowned man, after half an hour's fruitless 
endeavour, as often happens? The unfortunate man would have been 
laid in the grave, although capable of restoration to life .' " 

To this case Dr. Bourgeois, in the "Archives de Medicine," adds 
others, in which individuals remained under water as long as six HOURS, 


and were recalled to life by efforts which a weaker conviction than his 
own would have refrained from making. These facts lead Dr. Londe 
to the conclusion that every day drowned individuals are buried who, 
with greater pe> severance, might be restored to life! 

The following case in point appears in tne Sunny side, New York, com- 
municated by J. W. Green, M.D.: 

" A few years since I was walking by the Central Park, near One 
Hundred and Tenth Street and Fifth Avenue. Noticing a crowd that was 
acting in an unusual manner by the side of the lake, I approached and 
inquired of one of the bystanders what was the cause of the excitement. 
He replied, ' A boy is drowned.' I advanced to the edge of the water, 
and saw two or three men in the water searching for the body. As they 
had not yet discovered it, I made enquiries, and found at last a small boy 
who had been a comrade of the victim. He showed me the spot from 
which the boy had fallen. I then pointed out to the searchers where to 
look, and immediately the body was recovered. I took it at once from 
i he hands of the person who had it, and held it reversed, in order to 
disembarrass it of all the water possible, for a minute or two, then 
stripped it of its clothing, sent for a blanket and brandy. I took a 
woollen coat from one of the bystanders until the blanket should arrive, 
laid the child upon it and commenced to rotate it. This I continued 
to do for at least fifteen minutes by the watch. I then tried auscultation ; 
no murmur could be heard. 

"The skin was cold, the lips were blue. Every artery was still. 
With all these signs of death present it was still obligatory upon me 
to persevere. At the end of fifteen minutes there was a slight gasp. 
A small quantity of brandy was placed upon the tongue. A little of 
this ran into the larynx, and the stimulation was sufficient to produce a 
long inspiration a' d then a cough. This was more than a half-hour 
from ihe time when the boy had been removed from the water. 
Complete restoraiion did not occur until nearly an hour from that time. 
He was now given to his mother, and I was informed on the following 
day that he entirely recovered, without an unfavourable symptom." 

The three following cases of resuscitation from apparent death by 
drowning are copied from the most recent reports of the Royal Humane 
.Society, London : 

" On 1 3th of August, 1895, Samuel Lawrence, aged five years, while 
playing on the bank of a disused claypit at South Bank, Yorkshire, 
fell into the water and sank. Two ot his companions dived into the 
water and brought him up, after a submersion of from seven to ten 


minutes, in an unconscious state. Two working men commenced arti- 
ficial respiration, and Dr. Steele continued it for ten hours before the 
boy showed signs of returning sensibility and his complete recovery." 

"October 6th, 1895. At Deptford, Surrey, a woman with a baby in 
her arms threw herself into the canal. They were rescued by the 
Royal Humane Society's drags. Two ladies took possession of the 
bodies (time of submersion not stated), and they employed Sylvester's 
system of artificial respiration with success, in the case of the woman 
in about one hour, and with the child one hour and a half." 

"August 6th, 1895. At Bradford, England, Rudolf Pratt, a clerk 
with Midland R.R. Company, was bathing, and sank in deep water. 
A bystander by diving brought him up. After a submersion of five 
minutes, unconscious, and not breathing, Dr. Oldham restored respiration 
by Sylvester's method after one and a half hour's treatment." 

These three cases are instructive on account of the length of time 
animation remained suspended before it could be aroused to a state of 
activity ; and they lead to the belief that many cases that are given 
up as actually dead could be saved if efforts at resuscitation were kept 
up for a lengthened period, as in the first case. 

In cases of drowning some persons are quickly revived after a long 
submersion ; others again, who are under water only a short time, 
require artificial respiration for a long time before they show signs of 
returning life, as was the case with Samuel Lawrence, who was 
submerged only ten minutes, yet required ten hours' active treatment 
to revive him. 



THE Casket, Rochester, New York, September, 1896, observes: At 
^different times considerable opposition has been raised against embalming 
by Boards of Health and other officials in various localities, on account 
of the haste with which the embalmer proceeds with his duties. A few 
recent cases of supposed corpses recovering, one of which occurred in 
Philadelphia, Pa., have revived the question, and it is reported that the 
Philadelphia Board of Health may take action, looking to the enactment 
of a law prescribing the period of time which should elapse after death 
before a body should be embalmed. 


In a recent issue of the Philadelphia Times, Funeral- Director Johm 
J. O'Rourke, a well-known professional of that city, expresses himself" 
on the subject as follows : 

"These two narrow escapes from burial alive have further impressed 1 
me with one of the perils attending the disposition of the dead I mean 
the danger of hasty embalming. As you know, in most cases the doctor 
who has had the patient is not called in after death, and very often the 
relatives of the deceased expect the undertaker, if embalming is to be 
done, to proceed with it at once. All the embalming schools teach 
that the only proper way to thus treat the body is by use of fluids- 
through the arteries. But in the lectures on the subject no period that 
should be permitted to elapse before it is begun is prescribed, and, as a.. 
rule, it follows dissolution as quickly as possible. 

" I contend that there should be some law or official rule governing' 
the matter, because after the artery is punctured and the fluid goes- 
through the whole body it is sure to destroy any spark of life that 
might remain. I have never met with any cases of resuscitation myself, 
but have had instances of deaths that made me hesitate in the work of 
embalming. Some months ago a man came to me fifteen minutes after 
a relative had breathed his last and asked me to embalm the body. I. 
went to the house, and, after seeing the corpse, refused, saying that I 
would not do it until after the expiration of twelve hours. The man 1 
had died of consumption, yet, for fear of it being a case of suspended, 
animation, I would take no chances. 

"At another time a person had died of dropsy. Within half an hour 
I was summoned. The attending physician had not been there, and 
twenty-four hours afterwards he gave a certificate of death from cancer. 
The body was very warm when I arrived, and neighbours who had. 
kindly volunteered to prepare it were doubtful if life was extinct. I 
had the corpse laid on an embalming table for two hours, and then 
placed it in what is known as a Saratoga patent box, in which are pans- 
filled with salted ice, so arranged that cold air circulates around the 
body. Had this been a case of suspended animation, it would have 
taken several hours to dispel the heat within the corpse. 

" Of course there are some supposed unmistakable signs. The only 
positive signs of dissolution are those which depend on molecular change 
or death-rigidity of the muscles of the whole body, and putrefaction of 
the tissues. These are most marked in organs and tissues the vital 
functions of which are the most active. The action of the heart, the- 
movements of respiration, may be reduced as to be altogether imper- 


ceptible, so that the functions of circulation and respiration appear to 
be arrested. This is occasionally observed in temporary syncope, in 
which a person, to all appearances dead, has after a time regained 
consciousness and recovered. 

"The peculiar condition of the nervous system called catalepsy, and 
the state of trance, are likewise further examples of the so-called 
apparent deaths ; but on the occurrence of actual death the irritability 
of the muscles by degrees disappears, electricity no longer excites their 
contraction, and then cadaverous rigidity sets in. ... Some action 
will, in all probability, be urged upon the next Legislature, or upon 
the Board of Health." 


The following letter from the editor of the Northern Herald, directed 
to a valued correspondent, has been received just as we are going to 
press : 

" WICK, September 9, 1904. 

"Dear Sir, 

" In connection with the question of Premature Burial, 
permit me to bring under your notice a case which has just been 
reported to me. 

"Quite recently an old woman died in Ross-shire, or, at any rate, 
was pronounced to be dead by a doctor. A relative of mine was asked 
to 'dress' the body. She, with the assistance of a neighbour woman, 
undertook the job, and were busy carrying out the last offices of respect, 
when the corpse said, ' Oh, I am very faint. Can you give me a draw 
of the pipe ? ' It appears that the old lady was in the habit of smoking 
a pipe. Both the dressers got such a fright that they ran, as it were, 
for dear life, out of the house of the 'dead.' One of them every now 
and then is seized with a fit of laughter. So much so, that she has 
lost control of herself, and has to adjourn to a retired place to let the 
fit run its course. 

"The medical man who had declared the old lady to be no more 
wired a relative of the 'fact ; but, when he learned that his patient was 
* resurrected,' he had to cancel the message. 

"I thought this narrative would interest you, and beg to forward it* 

" Yours faithfully, 

"A. M. Ross. 
"H. N. Mosley, Esq., M.A." 




IN the sixteenth Council of Milan, Saint Charles Borromeo prohibited 
burials before twelve hours after ordinary cases of death, and twenty- 
four hours after cases of sudden death. As early as the sixteenth 
century serious attention in the examination of the dead was made 
obligatory by the enactment of Article 149 of the Criminal Statutes of 
Charles the Fifth. This was the foundation of legal medicine in 
Germany. In France, a similar ordinance was first established in 1789. 


Act of April rot /i, 1869. 

No burial is allowed without the written permission of the Civil 
Recorder, granted upon the production of a certificate of a qualified 
physician, and not until thirty six hours have elapsed after death, nor 
later than the fifth day after death. But this regulation can be set 
aside, and a longer period allowed, by the burgomaster, on the- 
application of a doctor. 

Dead-houses are in use for bodies dead of infectious diseases. 


Death must first be established by a licensed physician, who carefully 
examines the body for that purpose, and, if satisfied, then issues a 
certificate which states the name, age, sex, place, and date, and 
immediate cause of death. The certificate is taken within twenty-four 
hours after the death to the Standesamt, where the death is recorded, 
and a certificate to that effect is given, and presented to the Cemetery 
Commission, which assigns the place of burial. The corpse is required 
to remain unburied three days, either at the place of death or at the 
mortuary, where it is under the observation of attendants ; but there is 
no State-appointed inspector of the dead, nor electric bells or other 
means for announcing and recording any movements of the body. The 
system of inspection and certification by qualified physicians, with the 
delay of three days, and the favourable condition of the dead-houses, 
have been the means of preventing the living from being mistaken for 
the dead in a number of cases. 



Interments must not take place, according to Article 77 of the Code 
Napoleon, before twenty-four hours of death, but in practice it is 
twenty-four hours after death notification by the mort-verificateur : 
During epidemics, or when deaths occur from infectious or contagions, 
diseases, the interments must invariably be made within twenty-four 
hours of death. 

Article 77 of the Civil Code states that "No burial shall take place 
without an authorisation, on free paper and without expense, of the 
officer of the civil state, who will not be empowered to deliver it, 
unless after having visited the deceased person, nor unless twenty-four 
hours after the decease, except in cases provided for by the regulations of 
the police." It results from this that no corpse can be buried before a 
minimum delay of twenty-four hours shall have expired after the decease. 
The formal record of the decease must be made by the officer of the 
civil state (the mayor), or, which is what takes place in most of the 
communes, by a medical man delegated by the mayor, and who takes 
the title of medical officer of the civil state. 

The Article 77 of the Civil Code is generally strictly observed in 
Paris and in other cities of France. The obligation to await the delay 
of twenty-four hours is intended to prevent too hasty burials. One 
considers, in fact, that that delay is generally necessary in order to be 
able to have certain proofs of death. 

By Article 358 of the Penal Code, the burial of a deceased person 
without such authorisation is punishable by a maximum period of two 
months' imprisonment, and a maximum fine of fifty francs, without 
prejudice to other criminal proceedings which may be applicable under 
the circumstances. 

Exceptions, however, have been established in certain cases. For 
example, in times of epidemics, or of too rapid decomposition of the 
corpse in the usual case, there is urgent need, in fact, to bury the body 
of a person attacked with a contagious or epidemic malady, in order to 
suppress one of the causes of propagation of the epidemic, or of the 
contagion. In the second case, it is understood that one could not 
keep longer, without danger to the public health, a corpse in complete 
putrefaction. There is occasion also to observe that, in these circum- 
stances, the end which the legislator has proposed to himself is equally 
obtained, since there cannot be any doubt as to the real death. How- 
ever that may be, it is the mayor (officer of the civil state) to whom 
it appertains, according to the terms of the Article 77 of the Civil Code, 


to give authority to bury ; and if he gives that authorisation before the 
expiration of the delay of twenty-four hours, it is after having established 
by himself, or by the medical officer of the civil state, the fact of its 
necessity, resulting from the circumstances of which we have just 

It is to be remarked that the Article 77 fixes a minimum and not a 
maximum delay. It is always the mayor to whom it appertains to fix: 
the day and the hour of the burial, and there may happen such and 
such a circumstance which necessitates a delay of the obsequies. The 
mayor need only assure himself in that case that no danger will result 
to the public health, which naturally is the" case when the corpse is 
embalmed, or is placed in a leaden coffin. 

Outside Paris and other large cities, and especially in the rural 
districts, much laxity prevails both as to verification of death and the 
time of burial, and cases of premature burial are not infrequent. 


The laws relative to funerals and burials are very strict perhaps 
the most thorough in their requirements of any in Europe. They 
provide for a very careful inspection of the body by medical inspectors, 
quite independently of the attending physicians, in order to ascertain if the 
death be absolute. Minute and specific official directions guide them 
as to the method of examination and the signs of death to be looked 
for. And they further provide for carrying out any particular method, 
as to which the deceased may have given directions, in order to 
prevent a possible revival in the coffin. Should the surviving relatives 
desire it, a post-mortem operation may be made upon the body, in the 
presence of the medical inspectors and the police ; in which case the 
heart is pierced through ; and a full report of the operations must be 
forwarded to the civic magistrate. A fee of six florins is allowed for 
such an operation. 


Every death is to be inquired into by the municipal physician. The 
first of five objects is to ascertain whether the person be really dead. 
In examining whether there are any remaining indications of life, he 
will rely not upon any one sign, nor even upon putrefaction, but upon 
the totality of the signs of death. If there are any indications of life 
remaining, he must at once institute the means of resuscitation approved 
by science, and continue them until such time as the family medical 
attendant is assured of their uselessness. If there be any doubt as to 


the reality of the death, a second inspection of the body is to be made 
by the municipal physician within twenty-four hours. Burial, as a rule, 
is not to be until forty-eight hours after death ; but the interval may be 
shortened in cases of infectious diseases or of unusually rapid decom- 

Vice- Governor's Order of 2Qth April, 1894. 

Every death to be inquired into by the parish physician, or a deputy 
appointed by the mayor. The first of six objects of the inquest is 
to ascertain whether the person be really dead. In the event of a 
non-medical examiner discovering signs of life, he is to send for a 
doctor. Inasmuch as decomposition, the only sure sign of death, is, as a 
rule, a phenomenon of later occurrence than the time appointed for the 
inquest (within twelve hours of the notification of death), the examining 
person must base his certainty of the extinction of life, not upon one 
sign, but upon the totality of the signs of death. 

Law of 2OtJi /uly, 1850. 

The burial of a corpse must not take place until seventy-two hours 
after death, and the signs of decomposition are clearly visible. Any 
proposed departure from this rule, in the event of earlier putrefaction, 
or the absence of decomposition at the end of seventy-two hours, 
requires the authority of a physician called in. By the above Law the 
following Orders are suspended: (i) the Order of nth February, 1792, 
concerning the treatment of the dead, and the precautions necessary to 
prevent the apparently dead from being buried prematurely ; (2) the 
General Order of I3th February, 1801, concerning precautionary measures 
in the burial of those dead of infectious diseases; (3) the Law of 22nd 
June, 1841, together with the Administrative Orders concerning the 
examination of corpses and the establishment of mortuaries. 

Order of 3Oth October, 1848. 

The ordinance hitherto in' force, as to making an incision in the sole 
of the foot in cases of patients who die in the hospitals, is abolished ; 
the hospital physicians to use their discretion whether or not the incision 
should be made; but, in cases for which is demanded an earlier burial 
than is visually prescribed, whether they have been hospital or private 


patients, the incision is to be made in the sole of the foot at the end 1 ! 
of the second inspection, and every other means taken to ascertain, 
whether the death be apparent or real. 


1. The prevailing custom for Christians and Mahomedans is to bury the- 
dead. The Hindoos burn them as a rule, but many prefer to throw 
them into a sacred river, particularly the Ganges or its tributaries, if 
they can do so unmolested by the authorities. 

2. There are no mortuaries. The signs which are assumed to indicate 
death are the various conditions and appearances when animation is 

3. Cases of revival from supposed death are sometimes heard of 
among the Hindoos, who regard such persons as outcasts. If the signs 
of returning life are not very manifest when a person begins to revive, 
he is sometimes killed by stuffing the mouth and nose with mud, which 
generally accomplishes the object. 


I. There are no laws or regulations in India for the disposal of the 
dead. The customs and formalities follow the traditions and require- 
ments of religious belief. 

a. The Hindoos burn their dead immediately after death takes place. 

b. The Parsees take their dead to a "Tower of Silence" as soon as 

death takes place, and, after certain prescribed ceremonies, the 
body is speedily devoured by vultures. 

1. The Europeans and Mahomedans bury their dead within from 

twenty-four to forty-eight hours, because putrefaction usually 
sets in soon after death on account of the heat and humidity of 
the climate. 

2. There are no mortuaries, excepting in connection with hospitals, 
where observations can be made. 


i. There are no laws nor regulations relative to the disposal of the 
dead, excepting in cases requiring an inquest or post-mortem examina- 
tion. The custom is to bury within twenty-four to thirty hours after 
death, but the time is sometimes extended to two or three days. 


2. There are no dead-houses, except at the hospitals, which are 
under the management of the superintendent. 

3. The certificate of the medical attendant is sufficient for burial 
purposes. The complete cessation of respiration and the heart's action 
are considered an absolute indication of death. When decomposition 
sets in, it usually appears within twenty-four hours after death, although 
in winter that process may be longer delayed. 


Orthodox Russians keep their dead three days before burial. During 
that time the body lies with the face uncovered, and a deacon chants 
and prays over it twice a day. A medical certificate of death is 

imperative before burial. 


Burials are regulated by the Communal Council in accordance with 
law. The system is complicated, but thorough. The medical men 
connected with the Government Medical Service ("Doctors of the 
Civil Government") have the sole control of the examinations of deaths, 
as well as births, accidents, sudden deaths, suicides ; and attend to 
burials, autopsies, postponements of burials, etc., on their own motion. 
Interments usually take place within forty-eight hours of death, but 
they may be carried out sooner during epidemics for the public safety. 

There are mortuaries in the city and suburbs, to which bodies may 
be taken at the request of surviving relatives, or by the order of the 
health authorities, according to private necessities or for the public 
safety. Except by the special authorisation of the officers of the civil 
government, bodies cannot remain in the mortuaries longer than forty- 
eight hours ; and a burial cannot take place in less than twenty-four 
hours. Special care is taken to test the reality of death in still-born 
infants, and efforts are made to revive them, as well as all other cases 
of seeming death. In cases of women dying during advanced pregnancy, 
the infant must be roused by artificial respiration, in order to restore 
animation if possible. The process for obtaining a delay for burial is 
intricate and cumbersome, and to a foreigner unaccustomed to the 
language and the local usages the chances would be against securing, 
such a permit before the time allowed for burial had expired. 


Mortuaries are connected with all the churches, cemeteries, and" 
some of the hospitals, and are growing in favour in the country places ; 


but as yet they are unprovided with any appliances for the resuscitation 
of the apparently dead, or for the prevention of premature burials. No 
corpse, however, is allowed to be taken to a mortuary before it has 
been inspected, and a death-certificate issued by a qualified physician ; 
but, when this is done, death is considered absolute. No corpse is 
allowed to remain in any church, chapel, or mortuary longer than 
seven days after supposed death, without special permission. Coffins that 
contain bodies which have died from infectious diseases must be so 
indicated, and cannot be opened in the mortuaries. 

As a rule, bodies are kept seventy-two hours before burial. The 
signs that are considered sufficient to establish death are the glazed 
appearance of the eyes, livid spots on the skin, and muscular rigidity. 
In doubtful cases the time before burial can be extended by authority 
of the Board of Health, of which the Police Director is ;i member 1 . 


Burials usually do not take place until twenty-four hour.- after death. 
For example, if a death takes place about four p.m., the burial is made 
late in the following afternoon. In time of epidemic bodies are 
hurried to the cemeteries, where depositories are provided, which are 
under the care of watchers until the expiration of twenty-four hours 
after death. The certificate of a reputable physician as to death is 
sufficient to authorise burial. Relatives or friends usually remain with 
the body until burial, excepting in cases when judicial proceedings are 
held over it to determine the circumstances of the death. 


There are no laws in Ireland regarding the disposal of the dead, but 
the Sanitary Acts of the United Kingdom can be applied in any case 
within a reasonable period, on the ground of public health. There is 
no fixed period for keeping a body before burial. The Roman Catholics 
usually bury on the third or fourth day after death ; but in some 
districts custom sanctions burial within twenty-four or thirty-six hours. 
Local burial authorities sometimes require a medical certificate before 
burial, but, there being no legal obligation for it, this is often omitted. 
In cases of suicide, sudden death, or death by violence, the coroner 
holds an inquest, and gives a certificate accordingly. 

There are no dead-houses in Ireland, where bodies may be observed 
for a period of time before burial. 


Concerning burials in England, see Glen's "Burial Acts" for the 
general burial practice; also "Regulations for Wilton Cemetery." 


In the United States of America, as a rule, everything relative to the 
disposal of the dead is regulated by local Boards of Health, as authorised! 
by State laws. A burial cannot take place without a certificate from 
a legally licensed physician, which must state the cause of death ; the 
place and time when it occurred ; the full name, age, sex, colour, 
occupation, birthplace ; names and birthplaces of both parents. There 
are no laws or regulations that require the inspection of the body to 
verify the fact of death (the certificate, as in England, as to the cause 
is considered sufficient for this purpose), and no time is fixed when a 
body must or must not be buried. This is regulated by and left to 
the convenience of the family of the deceased, by the season of the 
year, by the opinion of the attending physician, etc. But the health 
officers can order the burial whenever, in their opinion, the public 
health requires it. As a rule, burials after supposed death are made 
sooner in the South, and among the poor, than in the North, and 
among the well-to-do classes. In remote unsettled regions burials not 
seldom take place without these formalities, and they are often carried 
out in a hasty manner ; but usually they do not take place till three 
days after supposed death, and sometimes, particularly in cold weather, 
a longer time is allowed. All large cemeteries have chambers for the 
temporary deposit of bodies, but they are not under observation, as it 
is taken for granted that they are dead. 


The Swiss legislation relating to burials is committed to the authority 
of the several cantons. The death is verified by a physician or an official 
person appointed for that purpose. The minimum time allowed between 
death and interment is fixed by each canton. In five cantons the time 
limit is twenty -four hours ; in one it is fixed at thirty-two hours ; in two. 
at thirty-six hours ; in fourteen cantons the period is four days ; and in 
one it is six %iys. In some cantons the period of waiting is extended 
during winter time ; and in some instances cases of swoon r apoplexy, 
etc. a further extension of time is ordered. In the majority of cantons, 
it is expressly forbidden to close the coffin until immediately before the 
departure of the coffin. 



R. J. WUNDERHAR, in his standard work on " Biblisch-talmudische 
Medicin," Riga and Leipzig, 1850-60, gives, in pp. 5-15 of the con- 
cluding section (Abtheil. 4, Bd. ii.), the following summary of the 
origin of the peculiar Jewish practice of burying the corpse within a 
few hours of death : 

In the Levitical law (Num. xix. 11-22) every dead body was an 
unclean thing, including those dead in the tent and on the battlefield. 
Touching a corpse involved purification and separation for seven days. 
This ordinance is supposed to have had a sanitary motive, having 
probably originated with cases of infectious disease. There is only 
one Biblical ordinance as to early burial, and that is indubitably 
restricted to persons executed for crime: Deut. xxi. 22, 23, "And 
if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to 
death, and thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night 
upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day (for he 
that is hanged is accursed of God), that thy land be not defiled, 
which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance." This 
statutory limit to the exposure of the bodies of malefactors was the 
;most convenient way of checking the practice, common in othei 
.countries, of leaving corpses of criminals to hang upon the gibbet 
until they rotted or were consumed by birds of prey. Its motive 
was to prevent, by the promptest measure, an indefinite degree of 
neglect in altogether special cases. 

There is nothing else in the Bible concerning early burial ; on the 
contrary, the patriarchal practice, in the case of eminent persons, seems 
to have been to keep the body for a considerable time above ground, 
after the manner of Egypt. Prior to the Babylonian exile there is not a 
trace of the latt-r practice of speedy burial. The post-Talmudic custom 
had arisen entirely from a misunderstanding. It is true that the Talmud 
enjoins that corpses according to circumstances be kept unburied not 
longer than one day; but it also permits them to lie above ground for 
days, so that elaborate funeral preparations might be mad^ or time given 
for mourners to arrive from a distance. Lastly, the Talmud relates the 
burial of one apparently dead, who revived and lived for twenty-five 
years, and begat five children; whereupon a rabbinical ordinance was 
made that the corpse (which would have been laid in a vault or in a tomb 


:above ground) should be visited diligently until three days after death. 
{The references to the Talmud are: Semachoth 8; Moedkaton I, 6; 
Sabbat 151, 152; Sanhedrin, 46a.) 

Wunderbar admits that there had been cases of premature burial 
among the Jews, but he asserts their extreme rarity, and doubts the 
-authenticity of most of the traditional or historical cases in general. 

In Jewish circles in Germany, towards the end of the i8th century, there- 
was much controversy as to the inexpediency of the practice of early 
burial. In the Berlinische Monatschrift for April, 1787, p. 329, 
(cited by Marcus Ilerz, " Ueber die friihe Beerdigung der Juden,"' 
Berlin, 1788, p. 6), there is printed a letter from Moses Mendelssohn 
to the Jews of Mecklenburg, in which he advises them to keep their 
dead unburied for three days. "I know well," he adds, "that you 
will not follow my advice ; for the might of custom is great. Nay, I 
shall perhaps appear to you as a heretic on account of my counsel. 
All the same, I have freed my conscience from guilt." 

The above-cited essay by Dr. Marcus Herz, of Berlin, arguing against 
the Jewish practice, called forth a reply by Dr. Marz, of Hanover, 
who was of opinion that the burial might safely proceed after the body 
had been left on the bed for three hours, and had then been pronounced 
lifeless by the medical attendant, according to the practice in that part 

of the country. To that Dr. Herz rejoined, in a second edition, that 
the medical attendant was no better judge than an ordinary man, 
inasmuch as all experimental tests were fallacious, and decomposition 
the only sure sign. He cites the following statement by an experienced 
Jewish physician, Dr. Hirschberg, of Konigsberg (from the Jewish 
periodical Sammler, vol. ii., p. 153): "I have practised medicine 
for forty years, and have always grieved over the practice amongst us 
of too hasty burial of the dead on the day of decease. It happened 
once in my practice that a woman lay for dead three days and then 

.awoke and revived. At first I would not allow the body to be moved 
from the bed, but the undertaker's men violently resisted me, taking 
up the body and laying it on the ground. According to their custom, 
they would have buried it the same day, had I not earnestly called 

out to them: 'Beware lest you do lay her in the ground this day! 
She is still alive, and the blame will be on you.' I had her covered 
with warm, woollen clothes ; on the following morning some signs of 
.life were manifest ; she lay still, and gradually awoke out of her 

Herz declared, as Wunderbar did subsequently, that the passages in 


the Talmud on vvh-ich the Jewish custom was based had been mis- 
interpreted: and he specially accused the rabbis Jacob Emden, of Altona, 
and Ezechel, of Prague, of rabbinical subtilty on the one hand, and 
of a fallacious dependence upon scientific signs of death on the other. 

At the World's Medical Congress (Division of Eclectic Medicine), 
held in Chicago, July 3, 1893, tne following resolution was proposed 
by Dr. John V. Stevens, and adopted : 

" Whereas we believe that many persons in the past, in the condition 
simulating death from various causes, have been buried alive ; 

' 4 Resolved That it should be the duty of all Governments to 
pass laws prohibiting the burial of bodies without positive proofs 
of death ; that the nature of these proofs should be taught in all 
schools and printed in all newspapers throughout the world.'' 



KORNMANNUS (Henncus). De rairaculis mortuorum. Francot., 1610. 
TIRELLUS (Mauritius). De causis mortis repentinae. \ 7 enet., 1615. 

ZACCHIAS (Paulus). Quaestiones medico-legales. Lib. iv. cap. i., 
quaest. xi., " De mortuorum resurrectione," fol. 241-247 editio 
tertia. Amstelaedami, 1651. 

[Gives many of the classical cases, with critical remarks.] 

KIRCHMAIER (Theodor) and NOTTNAGEL (Christoph). Elegantissimum 
ex physicis thema de hominibus apparenter mortuis. Wittenbergae, 

[Collects cases, from ancient and more recent writers, of the 
apparently dead having been taken for dead: Pliny, Hist. Nat., 
lib. vii. 52; Plutarch, De sera numinis vindicta ; Apuleius, Flori- 
dorum, lib. vi. ; St. Augustine, De cura mortuorum ; Thuanus (no 
ref.); Diomed Cornarus, Hist, admirand. (case of a Madrid lady 
who is supposed to have given birth to a child after she was laid 
in the tomb, the corpse having a new-born dead infant in the righi 
hand when the vault was opened a few months after) ; Chr. 
Landinus, notes to Virgil, Mn. vi. (incident at a funeral, of which 
he was an eye-witness at Florence) ; Horst. Med. mir., cap. ix. 
(woman left for dead of the plague at Cologne in 1357) ; and the 
case of a glazier, then living at Wittenberg, who was treated as 
dead when a child of three years.] 

GARMANN (L. Christ. Frid.). De miraculis mortuorum libri tres, 
quibus praemissa dissertatio de cadavere et miraculis in genere. 
Opus physico-medicum curiosis observationibus experimentis aliisque 
rebus exornatum. Ed. L. J. H. Garmann. Dresden and Leipzig, 
1709. (First ed., Leipzig. 1670.) 

BEBEL (Bajthasar). Dissertatio de bis mortuis. Jena, 1672. 



HAWES (Dr.). On the duty of the relations of those who are in 
dangerous illness, and the hazard of hasty interment. A sermon 
preached in the Presbyterian Chapel of Lancaster in 1703, wherein it 
is clearly proved, from the attestation of unexceptionable witnesses, 
that many persons have been buried alive. 

LANCLSI (Johannes M.). De subitaneis mortibus libri duo. Romae,, 
1707 ; Lucae, 1707 ; Lipsiae, 1709. 

WILFROTH (Johannes Christianus). Dissertatio de resuscitatione semi- 
mortuorum medica. Halae, 1725. 

RANFT (Michael). Tractat von den Kauen und Schmatzen der Todten 
in Grabern, worin die wahre Beschaffenheit derer Hungarischen 
Vampyrs gezeight, etc. Leipzig, 1734. 

BEYSCHLAG (Fr. fac.). Sylloge variorum opusculorum. " De hominum 

a morte resuscitatorum exemplis." Halae Sueviorum, 1727-31- 

WINSLOW (Jacques Benigne), Professor of Anatomy at Paris. An 
mortis incertse signa minus incerta a chirurgicis quam ab aliis 
experimentis. Paris, 174- Dissertation. 

Dissertation sur 1'incertitude des signes de la mort, et 1'abus 

des enterremens et embaumemens precipites ; traduite et commentee 
par Jacques Jean Bruhier. Paris, 1742. (With the Latin text.) 

BRUHIER (Jacques Jean), d'Ablaincourt. Memoire sur la necessite d'un 
reglement general au sujet des enterremens et embaumemens 
addition au memoire presente au Roi. Paris, 1745-46. 

Dissertation sur 1'incertitude des signes de la mort, et 1'abus 
des enterrements et embaumemens precipites. Second ed. Two 
vols. Paris, 1749. 

- The uncertainty of the signs of death, and the danger of 
precipitate interments and dissections. Second ed. London, I75 1 - 

[Bruhier, in his work Dissertations sur 1'incertitude des signes de 
la mort et 1'abus des enterremens, produces accounts of one hundred 
and eighty-one cases, among which there are those of fifty- two 
persons buried alive, four dissected alive, fifty-three that awoke in 
their coffins before being buried, and seventy-two other cases of 
apparent death.] 


ANON. The uncertainty of the signs of death, and the danger of 
precipitate interments and dissections demonstrated. Dublin, 1748. 

COOPER (M). Uncertainty of the signs of death, precipitate interment 
and dissection, and funeral solemnities. London, 1746. 

JANKE (J. G.) Abhandlung von der Ungewissheit der Kennzeichen des 
Todes. Leipzig, 1 749. 

Louis (Antoine). Six lettres sur la certitude des signes de la mort, oil 
1'on rassure les citoyens de la crainte d'etre enterres vivants ; avec 
des observations et des experiences sur les noyes, Paris, I75 2 - 

PI.AZ (Antonius Gulielmus). De signis mortis non solute explorandis. 
Specimen primum, Lipsiae, 1765; secundum, 1766; tertium, 1766; 
quartum, 1767. 

De mortuis curandis. Diss. Lipsiae, 1770. 

MENGHIN (Joh. Mich. de). Diss. de incertitudine signorum vitae et 
mortis. Vienna, 1768. 

KSCHENBACH (Christ. Ehrenfr.). De apparenter mortuis. Vienna, 1768. 

JANIN DE COMBE BLANCHE (Jean). Reflexions sur le triste sort de 
personnes qui sous un apparance de mort ont etc enterrees vivant, 
etc. Paris, 1774. 

DE GARDANE (Joseph Jacques). Avis au peuple sur les asphyxies ou 

morts apparentes et subites. Paris, 1774. Portuguese transl. 

included in Avisos interessanles sobre as mortes apparentes. 
Lisbon, 1790. 

Catechisme sur les morts apparentes, dites asphyxies, etc. 

Paris, 1781. 

NAVIER (Pierre Toussaint). Reflexions sur les dangers des inhumations 
precipitees et sur les abus des inhumations dans les eglises, etc. 
Paris, 1775. 

PINEAU ( ). Memoire sur le danger des inhumations precipitees, et 

sur la necessite d'un reglement pour mettre les citoyens a 1'abri du 
malheur d'etre enterres vivants. Niort, 1776. 

MARET (Hugues). Memoire pour rappeler a la vie les personnes en 
etat de mort apparente. Dijon, 1776. 


BKIXKMANX ([oh. Pet.). Beweis der Moglichkeit dass einige Leute 
konnen lebendig begraben werden, etc. Dtisseldorf, 1777- 

S \VIKTEN (Karon Geerard Van). I)e morte dubia. Vienna, 1778. 
TESTA (Antonio Guiseppe). Delia morte apparente. Firenze, 1780. 

Doi'i'ET (F.A. ). Des moyens de rappeler a la vie les personnes qui ont 
toutes les apparences de la mort. Chambery, 1785. 

[In 1784 the Imperial and Royal Academy of Sciences, etc., of 
Brussels proposed as a subject for a prize essay, What are the 
means that can be employed by medicine and police to prevent the 
dangerous mistakes of premature burial ?] 

WAUTERS (Pierre Englebert). Responsum ad quaesitutn, Quae turn 
medica, turn politica praesidia adversus periculosas inhumationum 
praefestinatarum abusus? Reprinted from the Mem. Acad. Imper. 
et Roy. de Sc. de Bruxelles. Bruxelles, 1787 [1788]. 

PREVI.XAIRE (P. [. B. ). Memoire sur la question suivante proposee en 
1784 par 1' academic imperiale et royale des sciences, belles-lettres, et 
arts de Bruxelles : Ouels sont les moyens que la medecine et la 
police pourroient employer pour prevenir les erreurs dangereuses des 
enterremens precipitees? Ouvrage <jui a concouru pour la prix de 
Tannc-e 1786. Bruxelles, 1787. 

The above in a German translation by Bernhard Gottlob 
Schreger. Leip/.ig, 1790. 

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1787. Thesis. 

TuiKRY (Franciscus). La vie de I'homme respectee et defendue dans 
ses derniers moments ; ou instruction sur les soins qu'on doit aux 
morts, et a ceux qui parrissent 1'etre : sur les funerailles et les 
sepultures. Paris. 1787. 

STEINKELD (Johannes Christianus). De signis mortis diagnosticis dubiis 
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HERZ (Marcus). Ueber die fri'the Beerdigung der Juden. Zweite 
vermehrte Auflage. Berlin, 1788. 

DURANDK ([. Fi. ). Memoire sur 1'abus de l'ensevelissement des morts, 
etc. Strasbourg, 1789. 


DE HUPSCH (Baron Job. Wilh. Carl Adolph). Nouvelle decouverte 
d'une methode peu couteuse, efficace et assuree de trailer tous les 
hommes decedes afin de rappeler a la vie ceux qui ne sont morts 
qu'en apparence. Cologne, 1789. 

ANON. Des inhumations precipitees. Paris, 1790. (Attributed by 
Barbier to Madame Necker.) 

FAHNER. Lancisius von den verschiedenen plotzlichen Todesarten 
ihren Ursachen, Kennzeichen und Rettungsmitteln. 190 pp. 
Leipzig, 1790. 

HUFELAND (Christoph W.). Ueber die Ungewissheit des Todes, und das 
einzige untriigliche Mittel . . . das Lebendigbegraben unmoglich 
zu machen, etc. Salzburg, 1791 ; Halle, 1824. 

REINHARDT (Julius Christophorus). Dissertatio de vano prematurae 
sepulturae metu. Jena, 1793. 

MARCELLO (Marin). Osservazioni teoriche-pratiche-mediche sopra le morti 
apparenti. Two vols., with nine plates. Venezia, 1793. 

ANSCHEL (Salomon). Thanatologia, sive in mortis naturam causas 
genera, etc., disquisitiones. Goettingae, 1795. 

HIMLY (Carolus). Commentatio mortis historian! causas et signa sistens. 
Goettingae, 1795. 

PESSLER (B. G. ). Leicht anwendbarer Beystand der Mechanik um Schein 
todte beim Erwachen im Grabe auf die wohlfeilste Art wieder daraus 
zu erretten. Braunschweig, 1798. 

DESESSARTZ (Jean Charles). Discours sur les inhumations precipitees. 
Paris, an vii. (1798). 

KOPPEN (Heinrich Friedrich). Nachrichten von Menschen welche 
lebendig begraben worden. A Is erster Theil des Buchs : Achtung 
der Scheintodten. Halle, 1799. (Dedication to Friedrich Wilhelm 
III., King of Prussia, Queen Louise, and Friedrich August, Prince 
of Hesse Darmstadt.) 



GRUNER (Jacobus). Dissertatio inauguralis de causa mortis submer- 
sorum eorumque resuscitatione observationibus indagata. Groningae, 

Memoirs of the society instituted at Amsterdam in favour of drowned 
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London, 1772. 

JOHNSON (Alexander), M.D. A short account of a society in Amster- 
dam ... for the recovery of drowned persons ; with observa- 
tions showing the advantage ... to Great Britain from a similar 
institution . . . Extended to other accidents. London, 177 }. 

- A collection of cases proving the practicability of recovering 
persons visibly dead, etc. London. 1773. 

- Relief from accidental death ; or, summary instructions for the 

general institution proposed in 17/3. London, 1785. 
Abridged instructions. London, 1785. 

CULLEN (W. ), M.D. A letter to Lord Cathcart concerning the recovery 
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HTNTKR (John). Proposals for the recovery of persons apparently 
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HA WES (William), M.D. An address to the public [concerning the 
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With a reply by W. Renwick, and observations on that reply. 
London, 1778. 

FULLER (John), M.D. Some hints relative to the recovery of persons 
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KITE (Charles), of Gravesend. An essay on the recovery of the ap- 
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Essay on the submersions of animals. London, 1795. 

Reports of the Humane Society for the recovery of persons apparently 
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The transactions of the Royal Humane Society from 1774 to 1784. With 
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FRANKS (John). Observations on animal life and apparent death. With 
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The same in an Italian translation. Pavia, 1795. 

GOODWYX (Edmund), M.D. De rnorbo morteque submersorum investi- 
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The connection of life with respiration ; or, an experimental 

inquiry into the effects of submersion, strangulation, and several kinds 
of noxious airs on living animals ; with an account of the nature of 
the diseases they produce, and the most effectual means of cure. 
London, 1788. 

Reflections on premature death and premature interment. Published by 
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ANON. An essay on vital suspension : being an attempt to investigate and 
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HAMILTON (Robert), M.D. Rules for recovering persons recently- 
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Directions for recovering persons apparently dead from drowning, and 
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CURRY (James). Popular observations on apparent death from drowning, 
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French transl. by Odier, Geneva, 1800. 

FOTHERGILL (Anthony). Inquiry into the suspension of vital action in 
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Preventive plan ; or, hints for the preservation of persons 

exposed to accidents which suspend vital action. London, 1798. 

CAILLEAU (J. M.). Memoire sur 1'asphyxie par submersion. Bordeaux, 

BICHAT (M. F. Xavier). Recherches physiologiques sur la vie et la mort. 
Paris, 1800, 1805, etc. 



COLEMAN (Edward). Dissertation on natural and suspended respiration. 
Second ed. London, 1802. 

STROVE (Christian August). A practical essay on the art of recovering 
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OSWALD (John). On the phenomena of suspended animation from 
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LUGA ( ). Traitement des asphyxies, ou moyen de rendre impossible 

1'enterrement de personnes vivantes. Paris, 1804. 

ACKERMANN (J. F. ). Der Scheintod und das Rettungsverfahren. 
Frankft. , 1804. 

BURKE (William). On suspended animation, etc. London, 1805. 

BERGER (J. F.). Essai physiologique sur la cause de 1'asphyxie par 
submersion. Paris, 1805. 

THOMASSIN (J. Frang.). Considerations de police medicale, sur la mort 
apparente, et sur le danger des inhumations precipitees. Strasbourg, 
1805. Also an earlier essay on same subject, with Durande, in 

DAVIS ( ). L'abus des enterrements precipitees. Moyens de rappeler 

a la vie les personnes en etat de mort apparente. Verdun, 1806. 

BARZELOTTI (Giac. ). Memoria per servire di avviso al populo sulle 
asfisse o morte apparente. Parma, 1808. 

MARC (C. C. H.). Des moyens de constater la mort par submersion. 
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COLORINI (Ant.). Sulle varie morti apparenti, etc. Pavia, 1813. 

PORTAL (A.). Sur le traitement des asphyxies: avec observations sur les 
signes qui distinguent la mort reelle de celle qui n'est qu' apparente. 
Paris, 1816. 


ORFII.A (F). Directions for the treatment of persons who have taken 
poison, and those in a state of apparent death. Transl. from the 
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at London, 1818. 

SNART (John). Thesaurus of horror ; or, the charnel-house explored. 
London, 1817. 

An historical inquiry concerning apparent death and pre- 
mature interment. London, 1824. 

VAI.PY (R.). Sermon before the Royal Humane Society, with observa- 
tions on resuscitation. Norwich, 1819. 

WHITER (Rev. W.). A dissertation on the disorder called suspended 
animation. Norwich, 1819. 

CHAUSSIER ( ). Vivants cms morts, et moyens de prevenir cette 

erreur. Paris, 1819. 

DONNDORF (J. A.). Ueber Tod, Scheintod, und zu friihe Beerdigung. 
Quedlinburg, 1820. 

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Paris, 1822. 

KAISER (Ch. L.). Ueber Tod und Scheintod, oder die Gefahren des 
friihen Begrabens. Frankfurt-am- Main, 1823. 

CALHOUN (T.). An essay on suspended animation. Philad., 1823. 

BUNOUST (Marin). Vues philanthropiques sur Tabus des enterrements 
precipites, precautions a prendre pour que les vivants ne soient pas 
confondus avec les morts. Arras, 1826. 

SPEYER (Carl F. ). Ueber die Moglichkeit des Lebendigbegrabens, und 
die Einrichtung von Leichenhausern. Erlangen, 1826. 

CHANTOURELLE ( ). Paper at the Royal Academy of Medicine of 

Paris, on the danger of premature burial, etc., with discussion 
thereon, loth and 27th April, 1827. Archives generates de medecine, 
vol. xiv. (1827), p. 103. 

GUNTHER (Johann Arnold). Geschichte und Einrichtung der Hambur- 
gischen Rettungs-Anstalten fiir im Wasser verungliickte Menschen. 
Hamburg, 1828. 


TAIJKRGER (Job. Gottf. ). Der Scheintod in seinen Beziehungen auf das 
Erwachen in Grabe und die verchiedenen Yorschlage zu einer \virk- 
samen . . . Retlung in Fallen dieser Art. With a copper plate. 
Hannover, i82Q. 

BOURGEOIS y<). Observations et considerations pratiques qui etablissent 
la possibility du retour a la vie dans plusieurs cas d'asphyxie et de- 
syncope prolongee avec apparence de la mort. 8vo. Paris, 1829. 

SciiNElDAWiND ( Kranz (oseph Adolph). Der Scheintod, nebst Unter- 
scheidung des scheinbaren und wahren Todes, und Mitteln, etc. 
Bamberg, 1829. 

WALKER (G. A.). (Gatherings from graveyards, etc. London, 1830. 

TACHERON. De la verification legale des deces dans la ville de Paris r 
et de la necessite d'apporter dans ce service medical plus de- 
surveillance. Paris, 1830. 

PiciiARD ( ). Le danger des inhumations precipitees. Paris, 1830, 

CHAUSSIKR (Hector). Histoire des infortunes qui ont ete enterres- 
vivants. Paris, 1833. 

DESKERCJER (Ant. F. A.). Tod und Scheintod, Leichen-und-Begrabungs- 
wesen als \\ichtige Angelegenheit der einzelnen Menschen und des- 
Staates. Leipzig, 1833. 

KOUCHARD (P). Apercu general des precautions prises en France avant 
I'inhumation des citoyens morts ; reforme (|ue 1'humanite reclame. 
Tours, 1833. 

SOMMER ( ). De signis mortem hominis absolutam ;mie putredinis- 

accessum indicantibus. Havniae, 1833. 

M ANNI (Pietro), professor at Rome. Manuale pratico per la cura degli 
apparentemente morti, premessevi alcune idee generali di polizia 
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1835. (Jerm. transl. by A. . Fischer, Leipzig, 1839. 

I)E FONTENEI.I.K (|ulia). Recherches medico-legales sur 1'incertitude des 
signes de la mort, les dangers des inhumations precipitees, les moyens- 
de constater les deces et de rappeler a la vie ceux qui sont en etat de 
mort apparente. Paris, 1834. 


SCHWABE (C). Das Leichenhaus in Weimar. Nebst einigen Worten iiber 
den Scheintod und mehrer jetzt bestehender Leichenhauser, sowie 
viber die zweckmassigste Einrichtung solcher Anstalten im Allge- 
meinen. Leipzig, 1834. 

KAY (J. P.). The physiology, pathology, and treatment of asphyxia, 
including suspended animation in new-born children, and from 
drowning, hanging, wounds of the chest, mechanical obstruction of 
the air-passages, respiration of gases, death from cold, etc. London, 

KOOL (J. A.). Tabellarisch overzigt over alle gevallen von schijndoode 
drenkelingen, gestikten, en gehangenen, bekroond door de Maat- 
schappij tot Redding van Drenkelingen, opgerigt in den jare 1767 te 
Amsterdam. Sedert hare stichting tot en met den jare 1833 [-53]. Uit 
authentieke stukken opgemaakt en met opmerkingen voorzien. 
Four vols. Amsterdam, 1834-54. 

LEGALLOIS (C). Experiences physiologiques sur les animaux tendant a 
faire connaitre le temps durant lequel ils peuvent etre sans danger 
prives de la respiration, etc. Paris, 1835. 

MARC (C. C. H.). Nouvelles recherches sur les recours a donner aux 
noyes et asphyxies. Paris, 1835. 

SIMON (L. C.). Quelques mots sur les enterrements prematures, et sur 
les precautions a prendre sur-le-champ, relativement aux noyes et 
asphyxies. St. Petersbourg, 1835. 

TWEDELL (H. M.). Account of a man who submitted to be buried 
alive for a month at Jaisulmer, and was dug out alive at the 
expiration of that period. India Journal of Med. and Physic. Sc. 
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LE GUERN (H.). Rosoline, ou les mysteres de la tombe. Paris, 1834. 

Du danger des inhumations precipitees, exemples tant anciens 
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Paris, 1837, 1844. 

Encore un mot, etc. Paris, 1843. 

LESSING (Mich. Bened.). Ueber die Unsicherheit der Erkenntniss des 
erloschenen Lebens, etc. Berlin, 1836. 


S( HNACKENHERG (Wilh. Ph. J.). Ueber die Nothwendigkeit der 
Leichenhallen zur Verhiitung des Erwachens in Grabe. Cassel, 

MISSIRINI (Melchiore). Pericolo di seppillire gli uomini vivi creduti 
morti. Milano, 1837. 

YIGXE ( ). Memoire sur les inhumations precipitees, des moyens de 

les prevenir, des signes de la mort. Rouen, 1837 ; Paris, 1839, 

BIOPHILOS. Die neue Sicherungsweise gegen rettungloses Wiederer- 
wachen im Grabe. Netistadt, 1838. 

SCHAFFER (Fried.). Beschreibung and Abbildung einer Vorrichtung 
durch welche Scheintodte sich aus dem Sarge im Grabe befreien 
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SCHMIDT (H.). Der Scheintod. 1841. 

VlLLENEUVE (P. E. ). Du danger des inhumations precipitees et des 
moyens de les prevenir, etc. Paris, 1841. 

DESCHAMPS (M. H.). Precis de la mort apparente. Paris, 1841. 

Du signe de la mort reelle, etc. Memoir read at the Acad. 

des Sc., March 28, 1843, in Gaz. Med., April 1st. 

Du signe certain de la mort, nouvelle epreuve pour eviter, 

d'etre enterre vivant. Paris, 1854. 

NASSE (P'ried.). Die Unterscheidung des Scheintodes von wirklichem 
Tode, zu Beruhigung iiber die Gefahr lebendig begrahen zu warden. 
Bonn, 1841. French transl. by Fallot. Namur, 1842. 

HICKMANX (J. N.). Die Elektricitat als Priifungs-und-Belebungsmittel 
im Scheintode. Wien, 1841. 

DENDY (W. C. ). The philosophy of mystery, etc. London, 1841. 

[Contains chapters on premature interment, resuscitation from 
catalepsy or trance, etc.] 

WELCH.MAN (E. ). Observations on apparent death from suffocation or 
drowning, choke-damp, stroke of lightning, exposure to extreme 
cold, with directions for using the resuscitating apparatus invented 
by author, and gen. instruc., etc. 8vo. New York, 1842. 


LKNORMAND (Leonce). Des inhumations precipitees. Macon, 1843. 

GAYET ( ). De la necessite de la verification des deces. Nantes, 


CHAI.ETTE (J.), fils. Du danger des inhumations precipitees et de 
1'importance de faire constater les deces par les gens de Tart. 
Chalons- sur-Marne, 1843. 

BARJAVEL (C. F. H.)- Necessite absolue d'ouvrir au plus tot des maisons 
d'attente ; considerations de police medicale, precedees d'un som- 
maire analytique, et suivies d'indications bibliographiques relatives 
au sujet de cet ecrit. (Tirage a cinquante exemplaires seulement). 
Carpentras, 1845. 

BICHAT. Recherches physiologiques sur la vie et la mort. Nouvelle ed. 
Paris, 1845. 3 88 PP- 

LE BON. La mort apparente et les inhumations prematurees. 

DEBAY (Auguste). Les vivants enterres et les morts resuscites. Con- 
siderations physiologiques sur les morts apparentes et les inhumations 
precipitees. Paris, 1846. 

GAILLARD (X.). Preservatif contre le danger d'etre enterre vivant, ou 
devoirs sacres des vivants envers les morts. Paris, 1847. 

LOTHMAR (C. J,)- Ueber das Lebendigbegraben. Leipzig, 1847. 

Du FAY (Hortense G.). Des vols d'enfant, et des inhumations d'individus 
vivants, suivi d'un apercu pour 1'etablissement des salles mortuaires. 
Paris, 1847. 

[In 1839 the Paris Academic des Sciences threw open to com- 
petition the Prix Manni (1,500 francs, founded in 1837 by Professor 
Manni, of Rome), for the best work on the signs of death and the 
means of preventing premature burials. The prize was not assigned 
on that occasion, nor in 1842 ; but in the competition of 1846 it 
was assigned to Bouchut, on the report to the Academy by Rayer, 
May 29, 1848.] 

BOUCHUT (E. ). Traite des signes de la, mort et des moyens de ne pas etre 
enterre vivant. Paris, 1849. Second ed., 1847; third ed., 1883. 

Memoire sur plusieurs nouveaux signes de la mort, fournis par 

1'opthalmoscopie, et pouvant empecher les enterrements precipites. 
Paris, 1867. 


BRAID (James). Observations on trance, or human hybernation. 
London, 1850. 

KAUFMANN (M.)- De la mort apparente et des enterrements precipites. 
Paris, 1851. 

KERTHOMAS (Hyac. L. De). Inhumations precipitees. Lille, 1852. 

HARRISON (James Bower). The medical aspects of death. London, 

CRIMOTEL (}. B. Valentin). Des inhumations precipitees; epreuve 
infaillible pour constater la mort ; moyens de rappeler a la vie dans 
les cas de mort apparente causee par Tether, le chloroforme, etc. 
Paris, 1852. 

De 1'epreuve galvanique ou bioscopie electrique, moyens de 

reconnaitre la vie ou la mort et d'eviter les inhumations precipitees. 

JOSAT ( ). De la mort et ses caracteres. JSecessite d'une revision 

de la legislation des deces pour prevenir les inhumations et les 
delaissements anticipes. Ouvrage entrepris et execute sous les 
auspices du gouvernement et couronne par Tlnstitut. Paris, 1854. 

LONDE (C.). Lettre sur la mort apparente, les consequences reelles 
des inhumations precipitees, le temps pendant lequel peut persister 
1'aptitude a etre rappele a la vie. Paris, 1854. Plates. 

KEMPNER (F.). Denkschrift iiber die Nothwendigkeit einer gesetzlichen 
Einfiihrung von Leichenhausern. New ed. Br.eslau, 1856. 

PEYRIER (J. P. P.). Recherches sur 1'incertitude des signes de la mort : 
enumeration des maladies qui peuvent produire la mort apparente ; 
abus des enterrements precipites. Paris, 1855. 

COLLONGUES (L.). Application de la dynamoscopie a la constatation 
des deces. Paris, 1858, 1862. 

HALMA GRAND ( ). Des inhumations precipitees. Paris, 1860. 

WELHY (Horace). Mysteries of life, death, and futurity (with chapter 
on premature interment). London, 1 86 1. 

REYHER (O. C. A.). Ueber die Verwerthung der bekannten Leichen 
erscheinungen zur Constatirung des wahren Todes. Leipzig, 1862. 


CHEVANDIERE (Antoine Daniel). De la verification des deces et de 
1'organisation de la medecine cantonale. Paris, 1862. 

HASSELT (A. W. M. van). Die Lehre vom Tode und Scheintode. 
Braunschweig, 1862, p. 276. 

DESMAIRE (Paul). Les morts vivants. Paris, 1862. 

BAR.RANGEARD (Antoine). Extrait de divers memoires publics ddpuir 
tres longtemps par le Docteur Barrangeard, sur le danger des 
inhumations precipitees et sur 1'indispensable necessite de constater 
avec soin tous les deces sans exception. Lyon, 1863. 

BONNEJOY (E). Des moyens pratiques de constater la mort pas 
1'electricite a la aide de la faradisation. Paris, 1866. 

RINK (H. W.). Vom Zustande nach dem Tode. Bibl. Untersuchungen. 
Ludwigsberg, 1866. 

LEVASSEUR (P.). De la catalepsie au point de vue du diagnostic de la 
mort apparente. 8vo. Rouen, 1866. 

De la mort apparente et des moyens de la reconnaitre. Rouen, 

1867. Re-issued, with a second essay, in 1870. 

JACQUAND (Frederic). Appareil respiratoire avertisseur pour les tombes, 
Assurance contre la mort apparente. Paris, 1867. 

BIANCO (Giuseppe). Le pericolose consequent della morte apparente 
prevenute da un confaciente riforma del servizio mortuario. Torino, 

GANNAL (Felix). Mort apparente et mort reelle. Moyens de les distinguer. 
First ed. Paris, 1868. Third ed. (mention honorable a 1'Institut 
de France), 1890. 

[In 1868 the Academic de Medecine of Paris threw open to 
competition the Prix d'Ourches of 20,000 francs for the discovery 
of a simple and popular means of detecting the signs of real death 
certainly and beyond doubt. The prize was not awarded, but pre- 
miums were given to several competitors.] 

HOARAU (H.). La mort, sa constatation, ou precede a 1'aide du quel 
on puet la reconnaitre et eviter des enterrements de vifs. Paris, 1874. 

YEYNE ( ). Mort apparente et mort reelle, arteriotomie donnant le 

moyen de les reconnaitre. Paris, 1874. 


MONTEVERDI (A.)- Note sur un moyen simple, facile, prompt et certain 
de distinguer la mort vrai de la mort apparente de 1'homme.. 
Cremone, 1874. 

M ARTEL ( ). La mort apparente chez les nouveaux-nes. Paris, 1874. 

BoiLLET (Ch.)- Mort apparente et victimes ignorees. Paris, 1875. 

DE COMEAU ( ). Les signes certains de la mort mis a la portee de 

tout le monde. Limoges, 1876. 

BELYAL (Th.). Les maisons mortuaires. Paris, 1877. 

FRITZ-ANDRE ( ). Du danger des inhumations precipitees. Brux- 

elles, 1879. 

[The Prix Dusgate was founded by a decree of November 27, 
1874, authorising the Academic des Sciences of Paris to accept the 
legacy of M. Dusgate of a quinquennial prize of 2,500 francs for 
the best work on the diagnostic signs of death and on the means 
of preventing premature burial. The essays of the first competition 
were received on [une I, 1880, and on March 14, 1881, the prize 
was divided among the three following competitors. In 1885 the 
prize was not awarded.] 

( )NIMUS (E. N. J.). Modification de 1'excitabilite des nerfs et des 
muscles apres la mort. (Published.) 

1'EVRAND (H.). De la determination de la mort reelle par le caustique 
de Yienne. 

LK BON (G. ). Recherches experimental sur les signes diagnostiques 
de la mort et sur les moyens de prevenir les inhumations precipitees. 
(A temperature of 25' C. on a thermometer kept in the mouth for 
a quarter of an hour.) Also, Article on Premature Interment in 
Monit. scient., viii. Paris. 

ALLEN (F. 1).). Remarks on the dangers and duties of sepulture, or 
security for the living with respect and repose of the dead. Boston, 
1873- * 

BURDETT (IT. C.). The necessity and importance of mortuaries for 
towns and villages, with suggestions for their establishment and 
management. London, 1880. 

FRASER (W. ). Distinctions between real and apparent death. Popular 
Science Monthly, New York, 1 880-81. Vol. xviii., pp. 401-408. 


HORNEMANN (E.). Vom Zustande des Menschen Rurz vor dem Tode. 
A. d. Dan. 5 Aufl. Gotha, 1882. 

FLETCHER (Moore Russell). One thousand persons buried alive by 
their best friends. A treatise on suspended animation, with direc- 
tions for restoration. Boston, 1890. 

" A Hygienic Physician." Earth to earth burial and cremation by fire 
[includes cases of premature burial]. London, 1890. 

HERNANDEZ (Maxime F. E. M.). Contribution a 1'etude de la mort 
apparente. Bordeaux, 1893. 

LIGNIERES (Dr. D. De). Ne pas etre enterre vivant. Paris, 1893. 

Traitement physiologique de la mort apparente. Series of twenty-five 
papers in "La Tribune Medicale." Paris, 1894. Vol. xxvi., 2 ser. 

GILES (Alfred E.). Funerals, suspended animation, premature burials. 
Boston, 1895. 

A Citizen's Remonstrance to the Legislature, by Alfred E. 

Giles. Boston, U.S., 1895. 

GAUBERT (B.), Avocat. Les chambres mortuaires d'attente, devant 
1'histoire, la legislation, la science, 1'hygiene et le culte des morts. 
(Le peril des inhumations precipitees en France.) With sixty 
figures, maps, or plans. Paris, 1895. 

HARTMANN (Franz). Buried alive : An examination into the occult 

causes of apparent death, trance, and catalepsy. Boston, U.S., 

1895. London, 1896. Also, Lebendig begraben. Leipzig, 1896. 

WILDER (Alexander). The perils of premature burial. London, 1895. 

EVERSBUSCH. Zur Scheintoderkennung und Leichenschau. Leipzig, 

Zur Scheintoderkennung und Leichenschau. Leipzig, 1896. 

2 pages appeared in No. 19 of the Reichsmedizinal-Anzeiger, Vol. 
xxi. (1896). 


SANTA (Dr. de Pietra). Lethargic et inhumations precipitees. In the 
Journal d'Hygiene, No. 1,072, April 8, 1897. Paris. 

LE KARNICI-FRANCE. Graf. v. Karnicki. Betrachtungen iib Lethargic 
od. Scheintod u. Kurze Beschreibg. d. patentirten Rettgsmittel 
" Karnice." Le Karnici-France. 4pp. Berlin, 1897. 

FELICE DELL' ACQUA (Dr.). La morte vera e la morte apparente, con 
appendice la legislazione mortuaria. I36pp. 1897. Published by 
Hoepli, Milan. 

KARNICE-KARNICKI (Michel de). Vie ou mort. 74pp. Paris, 1900. 

BROUARDEL. Death and sudden death. Translated by F. L. Benham, 
M.D., B.S. 270 pp. London, 1897. 

Handbuch der Medicinalgesetzgebung in Konigreich Bayer. 

BECKER (Dr. Carl). Heft I. Das Leichen-und-Begrabniswesen. 
Miinchen, 1898. 

GREEN (C. Theodore), M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. Sudden death and prema- 
ture burial. 24 pp. London, 1898. 

GIACCHI (Dolt. Prof. Oscar). La morte apparente. 20 pp. Torino, 

CONNER (Edoardo). Come lo stato possa impedire la sepoltura dei vivi. 
LA HAVE. Histoire de la medecine. 


LABORDE (Dr. T--V. ). Le signe automatique de la mort reelle. 
114 pp. Paris, 1900. 

FAGGE and PYE SMITH. Text book of medicine. Fourth ed., vol. i., 
p. 972. 1901. 

KNOPSTUCK-ROWEL. Absolut sichere Verhiitung des Lebendigbegra- 
benwerdens durch Behandlung des Toten mit Kalte Finsternis und 
Einsamkeit. i6pp. Dresden, 1902. 



ABADIE (C.). Note sur 1'examen ophthalmoscopique du fond de 1'oeil 
comme signe de la mort reelle. Gaz. d'Hop., vol. xlvii., p. 290. 
Paris, 1874. 

BOUCHUT (E.). Mort apparente durant six heures, avec absence des 
battements du coeur a 1'auscultation. Gaz. d'Hop., vol. xxvii., p. 
223. Paris, 1854. 

BOURGEOIS (R.). Du danger d'etre enterre vivant et des moyens de 
constater la mort. Bull. Acad. de Med., vol. ii., pp. 619-626. 
Paris, 1837-38, and Rev. Med. Fran9- et etrang., vol. ii., pp. 360- 
378. Paris, 1838. 

BROWN-SEQUARD ( ). " Extraordinary prolongation of the principal 

acts of life after the cessation of respiration." Arch, de Physiol. 
Norm, et Path., vol. vi., 2 ser., pp. 83-88. Paris, 1879. 

"Researches on the possibility of recalling temporarily to 

life persons dying of sickness." J. de la Physiol. de PHomme, 
vol. i., pp. 666-672. Paris, 1858. 

CAZIN ( ). Be la necessite de faire constater tous les genres de 

mort. Precis d'Trav. Soc. Med. de Boulogne-sur-Mer, vol. i., pp. 
27-33- 1839. 

CHAUSSIER ( ). Rapport sur les enterremens precipitees. Bull. 

Fac. de Med. de Paris, vol. v., pp. 467-476. 1816-17. 

DESCHAMPS (M.-H.). Memoire sur la verification des deces et sur le 
danger des declarations precipitiees. Union Med., vol. xxi., N.S., 
pp. 56, 1 06. Paris, 1864. 

DEVERGIE ( ). Inhumations precipitiees. Ann. d'Hyg , 2 ser., vol. 

xxvii., pp. 293-327. Paris, 1867. De la creation de maisons 
mortuaires et de la valeur des signes de la mort. Ann. d'Hyg., 
vol. xxxiv., 2 ser., pp. 310-327. Paris, 1870. 

Des signes de la mort ; etude de leur cause, appreciation de 

leur valeur. Ann. d'Hyg., vol. xli., 2 ser., pp. 380-405. Paris, 


FODERE ( ). Signes de la mort. Diet, de Sc. Med., vol. li., pp. 

294-306. Paris, 1821. 

FOUANES ( ). Sur la rigidite cadaverique comme signe certain de 

la mort. Gaz. Med. de Paris, vol i., 3 ser., p. 91. 1846. 

FOUQUET ( ). Memoire sur la roideur cadaverique considered comme 

signe certain de la mort. Gaz. Med. de Paris, vol. ii., 3 ser., 
pp. 260-255. 1847. 

FOURNIE ( ). Les signes de la mort et le prix d'Ourches. (Also trans- 
lated into Italian.) Gaz. d'Hop., vol. xlvii. , pp. 273-275. Paris, 

GlRBAL ( ). Mort apparente : mesures prematures d'inhumation : 

topiques stimulants, prompte cessation des phenomenes lethiformes, 
guerison. Revue de Therap. du midi, vol. ii., pp. 161-167. Mont- 
pellier, 1851. Also, Gaz. d'Hop, vol. iii., 3 ser., p. 142. Paris, 

GRETSCHER DE WANDELBURG. (For Marquis d'Ourches's prize.) Des 
moyens de distinguer la mort reelle de la mort apparente. In his 
Mem. de Med. et Chir., pp. 49-54. 8vo. Paris, 1881. 

HAMON (L.). Simple note sur la mort apparente ; acupuncture cardiaque 
et diaphragmatique. Rev. de Therap Med. Chir., vol. xlvii., p. 482. 
Paris, 1880. 

HENROT (H.). Persistance des battements du cceur pendant plus d'une 
heure apres la cessation de la respiration. Bull. Soc. Med. de 
Reims., No. 15, pp. 139-144. 1876-77. 

LABORDE (J. V.). Gaz. hebd. de Med., vol. viii., 2 ser., pp. 605, 
623, 710. Paris, 1871. 

LARCHER ( ). Arch. Gen. de Med., vol. i., pp. 685-709. Paris, 1682. 

LEGRAND (A). Rev. Med. Fran9. et etrang., vol. i., pp. 705-714. 
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LEVASSEUR (P.) et MARTINS (S.). France Med., vol. xiv., pp. 169,. 
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MALHOL (J.). Journ. Gen. de Med. Chir. et Pharm., vol. xxii., p. 470. 
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MICHEL (A.). Bull. Gen. de Therap., etc., vol. xxxvii., pp. 462-464. 
Paris, 1849. 

MONFALCON (J. B.). Art. " Mort," Diet, de Sc. Med., vol. xxxiv., 
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NICATI (W.) Un signe de mort certaine, emprunti a 1'ophthalmotono- 
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PAPILLON (F.). Rev. des Deux Mondes, vol. civ., pp. 669-688. Paris, 

PINGAULT ( ). Bull. Soc. de Med. de Poitiers, vol. xxviii., pp. 83-86. 


PLOUVIEZ ( ). Union Med. Paris, vol. L, pp. 408-424. 1870. 

Report to French Academy of Sciences on apparent deaths, etc. , by Rayer. 
Compt. Rend. Acad. de Sc. (Seance, May 29, 1848.) Also in Ann. 
d'Hyg., vol. xl., pp. 78-110. Paris, 1848; and in Ann. de Med. 
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de Poitiers, vol. xv., pp. 39-53, 1849. 

SIMON (A.). Bull. Gen. de Therap., etc., vol. xxxvii., pp. 221-226. 
Paris, 1849. 

SIMONOT ( ). Union Med. de Paris, vol. xii., 2 ser., pp. 211-286. 


TOURDES (G.). Art. "Mort: la mort apparente," in Diet. Encycl. de 
Sc. Med., vol. ix., 2 ser., pp. 598-690. Paris, 1875. 

TOURNIE ( ). Union Med., vol. viii., p. 235. Paris, 1854. 

VAN GHEEL ( ). Gaz. d. Hop., vol. xliv., pp. 345-353. Paris, 1871. 

VAN HENGEL (J.). Journ. de Med. Chir. et Pharm. Col., vol. vi., pp. 
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GERMAN ARTICLES. (The Titles Translated.) 

ALKEN ( ). Restoration to life of one apparently dead. Wochenschr~ 

f. d. ges. Heilk., p. 319. Berlin, 1838. 

ARNOLD (J. W. ). On acupuncture of the heart as a means of recovery in 
apparent death. Heidlb. klin. Ann., vol. vii., p. 311. 1831. 

BALDINGER (E. G. ) Literary contribution to the history of being buried 
alive. N. Magaz. f. Aerzte., vol. xiv., p. 84. Leipzig, 1792. 

BETZ (F. ). Sudden apparent death in a child with vomiting and purging. 
Memorab., vol. v., p. 119. Heilbrn., 1860. 

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French theses (at Paris, unless otherwise stated) on apparent death, 
the signs of death, danger of premature burial, etc. : 

JOUY (Montpellier), 1803. D'ALENCASTRE, 1832. 

THOMASSIN (Strassbourg), 1805. CHAMPNEUF, 1832. 

LAURENT, 1805. BONIFACE, 1833. 

PIERRET, 1807. LINARES, 1834. 

VERNEY, 1811. MENESTREL, 1838. 

FOUCHER, l8l7. DE SlLVEIRA PlNTO, 1837. 

CRESLON, 1819. CARRE,' 1845. 


FERRY, 1819, DOSAIS, 1858. 


LEVY (Strassbourg), 1820. PARROT, 1860. 


POUIER, 1823. SCHNEIDER (Strassbourg), 1863. 

WEST, 1827. ACOSTA, 1864. 

PIERRET, 1827. EDMOND, 1871. 

GLEIZAL, 1829. 

Graduation theses other than French, on the same theme : 

VAN GEEST (Lugd. Bat.), 1811. BETTMAN (Munich), 1839. 

DAVIES (Edin.), 1813. SCHMIDT (Niirnberg), 1841. 

GOURY (Leodii), 1828. KLUGE (Leipzig), 1842. 

TSCHERNER (Breslau), 1829. WENDLER (Leipzig), 1845. 

SOMMER (Havniae), 1833. KRIBBEX (Bonn), 1873. 

NYMAN (Dorpat), 1835. SORGENFREY (Dorpat), 1876. 

The following publications have been issued by the London Asso- 
ciation for the Prevention of Premature Burial, and copies can be 
obtained from the Secretary, 17 Lamb's Conduit Street, London, W.C. 

Premature Burial and How it May be Prevented, by WILLIAM TEBB 
and Col. E. P. VOLLUM. 4OOpp. 

Premature Burial : a Reply to Dr. David Walsh, by WILLIAM TEBB. 

The Perils of Premature Burial, by Prof. ALEX. WILDER, M.D. With 
Introduction by WILLIAM TEBB. 28pp. 

Premature Burial, by Dr. FRANZ HARTMANN. I28pp. 

How the State May Prevent Premature Burial, by EDWARD CONNOR. 
Booklet, i6pp. 

In Dread of Premature Burial. Reprinted from Cassell's Saturday 
Journal. i6pp. 

A Plan for Forming Associations for the Prevention of the Burial of 
Living Persons. Fourth Edition. Booklet, I2pp. 


Burying Alive. Reprint, by permission, from The Spectator, September 
14, 1896. 4pp. leaflet. 

Premature Burial and its Prevention. A Description of the "Karnice" 
Process. Leaflet, 4pp. 

Burials Amendment Act. Draft of a Bill containing provisions for the 
verification and certification of death previous to burial, drawn up 
by a Barrister-at-Law. 

How I was Buried Alive. The experience of Baron Corvo described 
by himself, illustrated with drawings done under his own 

What is Death? Reprinted from The Spectator. Booklet, 2Opp. 

The Signs and Proofs of Death, by SIR BENJAMIN WARD RICHARDSON, 
M.D., F.R.S., etc. 

Trance : Its Various Aspects and Possible Results. J. BRINDLEY 

Considerations on Lethargy or Apparent Death, followed by a Summary 
Description of the Safety Apparatus "Karnice." 

Circular of the London Association for the Prevention of Premature 
Burial. 4pp. 

Annual Reports of the London Association for the Prevention of 
Premature Burial. 


ALDIS, Dr. C. J. B., letter on tying 
up the chin after death, 389. 

All the Year Round, paper cited 
from, on apparent death, and 
means of recovery, 314-318. 

Andersen, Hans Christian, his dread 
of being buried alive, 188. 

Angell, Mr. George T. , 306. 

Animation, suspended, in a case of 
small-pox, 121. (See "Trance.") 

Apathy, public, concerning live 
burial, 67. 

Apoplexy, Lenormand on, as cause 
of apparent death, 214. 

Asclepiades recovers a corpse from 
the bier, 371. 

Auscultation, fallacies of, in diag- 
nosis of death, 307, 308 

Austria, laws of, for inspection of 
dead, 399. 

Austrian incident of probable burial 
alive, 146. 

Awaking in coffin, inference as to, 
at Les Innocens, Paris, 81 ; at 
Philadelphia, 82; in Calcutta, 82; 
at Basingstoke, 83 ; at Tonneins, 
84; at Montflorin, 85; at Bohaste, 
85 ; at Grenoble, 86 ; at Cesa, 
Naples, 86; at Tioobayn, St. 
Petersburg, 86; at Le Pin, Gre- 
noble, 87 ; at Deptford, 87 ; at 
Greenwood Cemetery, 88 ; at 
Benovent, 88; at Novocherkask, 
89; at Rudenberg, Austria, 89; 
at Salon (Bouches du Rhone), 89; 
at Naples, 90; at Derbisch, Bo- 
hemia, 90 ; at Majola, Mantua, 
91; soldier's wife, 91; in Ireland, 
92; at New York (two cases), 92, 
93; in India, 94, 95; Koppen's 
cases of, 252-255, 385 ; case of a 
Franciscan monk, at Bordeaux, 
29 , 

252 ; old cases at Cologne, 373 ; 
at Dijon, 373 ; at Vesoul, 374 ; 
of a cardinal at Rome, 375 > f 
case related 'by Elliotson, 379; 
of Robert Scott, 380; of Rev. 
John Gardner, 381; of case re- 
lated by Dr. Herz, 382; of Mrs. 
Goodman, 383 ; cases related by 
British Medical Journal, 387, 388. 

BARNETT, Dr. J. M., publishes 
letter on the blister test, 306. 

Battlefields, burial alive in, 95-97. 

Bavaria, official regulations of, for 
preventing premature burial, 244; 
police, instructions to, for corpse 
inspection, 245, 246. 

Baxter, Mr. W., on extraordinary 
case of death-certification, 282. 

Berkeley, Bishop, his dread of being 
buried alive, 1 88. 

Beugless, Mr. J. D., on the dread 
of premature interment, 191. 

Bibliography, seventeenth century, 
409; eighteenth century, 410; 
relating to humane societies, 414; 
nineteenth century, 416 ; theses, 
427 ; French articles, 427 ; Ger- 
man articles, 430 y English and 
American articles/433; Spanish 
articles, 436; Italian articles, 437 ; 
publications of London Associa- 
tion for Prevention of Premature 
Burial, 438, 439. 

Billimoria, Mr. N. F. , writes to the 
author on premature burning in 
India, 164; relates cases of Parsees 
recovered from apparent death, 
170; on advantages of the Parsee 
customs in assuring revival, 171. 

Bishop, Mrs. Eleanor F., her escape 
from premature embalming, 274. 



Blau, M., certifies an escape from 
live burial at Toulouse, 177. 

Blavatsky, Madam, the late, had an 
escape from live burial, 46. 

Blunden, Madam, her burial alive 
at Basingstoke, 83. 

Bombay, customs in disposal of dead, 

Bonawitz, Mr. J. H., relates two 
experiences of escape, 327-329. 

Bordeaux, corpses shown in cathedral 
of, which had moved in the coffin, 

Bouchut, Dr. E. , his book gives 
sensational cases, 14; relates case 
rescued alive from coffin, 152; on 
tests of death, 223 ; prize for dis- 
covery of death test, 318 ; case of 
revival in mortuary at Cassel, 361. 

Bourneville, Dr., on drunkenness as 
a death counterfeit, 157. 

Boussakis, M. K., eye-witness of 
resuscitation of supposed corpse, 

Brahmin rites and superstitions, 

Braid, Mr. James, narrates case of 
catalepsy, 66 ; on animal hiberna- 
tion, 69 ; on trance in fakirs, 75 ; 
on Sir Claude Wade's testimony, 
77 ; cases of trance with sense of 
hearing good, 379. 

Brewer, Dr. , relates cases of narrow 
escape, 113. 

Brighouse, Mr. S., coroner, case of 
child " died" four times, 358. 

British Medical Journal on signs 
of death, 237-240 : case of diffi- 
culty in diagnosing real death, 
239 ; hardly any one sign but 
putrefaction infallible, 239 ; on 
death - certification, 282, 283 ; 
records two cases of revivals in 
the coffin, 387, 388. 
Broadwey, Dorset, catalepsy in a 

bride at, 66. 

Brouardel, Dr. P., on hibernating 
animals, 71, 72; experiment on 
live dog in coffin, 251 ; failure of 
heart test, 223 ; on unreliability 
of death signs, 303. 

Brown-Sequard, Dr., on fallacy of 
clenched jaws as sign of death, 

Bruhier, Dr., relates case of pre- 
mature dissection, 276. 

Brussels, regulations for verification 
of death, 294, 295 ; burial regula- 
tions and mortuaries of, 403. 

Buffon, Comte de, on the treatment 
of the dead, 256. 

Bukovina, case of resuscitation in, 

Burial Act of 1900, 289-291. 

Burial, ancient practices of, 376-379. 

Burial, hasty, case of, at Roscrea, 

Burial, live, experiment on, at West- 
minster Aquarium, 77. 

Burial, premature, a class of pro- 
bable cases of, 141-148 ; G. A. 
Walker on risks of, 256, 257 ; 
Fletcher on risks of, 258 ; number 
of cases of, 261-270 ; frequency 
of estimated, 261-270; Hufeland 
on risks of, 262. 

Burials, ancient practices, 175* 

Buried alive. (See also under 
"Awaking.") Rescue delayed 
at Salzburg, Austria, 137 ; at 
Saumur, in France, fatal delay, 

138 ; fatal delay at Radstock, 

139 ; at Doussard, 139 ; at Li- 
moges, saved by promptness, 140. 

Burning Ghat, the, of Calcutta, 
visited by the author, 159. 

Burton, Lady, provisions of her will 
against risk of live burial, 187. 

CALCUTTA, the Burning Ghat, 
visited by the author, 1 59 ; burial 
customs at, 402. 

Cape Town, want of mortuary regu- 
lations at, 402. 

Carnot, M., petitions French Senate 
on premature burial, 112 ; his 
statistics of live burial, 264. 

Carpmael, Mr. E. E., hypodermic 
strychnine as a reviver, 311. 

Casket, The, on testimony of opened 
graves, 395 ; on hasty embalm- 
ing, 395- 



4< Cassell's Family Physician," ac- 
count of catalepsy from, 60. 

Castaldi, Signer, buried in state of 
catalepsy, 325. 

Catalepsy, definition and symptoms 
of, 57 ; reminiscences by editor, 
57, 58 ; Hartmann differentiates 
trance and catalepsy, 59 ; Dr. 
Gowers on, 59; " Cassell's Family 
Physician " on, 60 ; Dr. Forbes 
Winslow on, 60 ; Gooch on, 62 ; 
cases by Jebb, 63 ; Dr. King, 
63 ; Chambers, 64 ; Paris Corre- 
spondent of Lancet, 65 ; Braid, 
66 ; near Wey mouth, 66 ; case 
of revival on eve of burial, 151, 
152; Dr. Milner on, 225 ; tragic 
occurrence during funeral ar- 
rangements, 192 ; Signor Cas- 
taldi buried alive in, 325. 

Cavendish, Miss Ada, provision in 
her will against risk of live 
burial, 1 88. 

Certificates of death, laxity of, 8, 
283, 285 ; prematurely given, 
292 ; case by Mr. Baxter, 282 ; 
British Medical Journal on, 
282-283 '> directions for filling up, 
283 ; laxity of, at Swansea, 
284 ; statistics of uncertified 
deaths, 288 ; in France, 294 ; in 
Brussels, 294 ; in Wurtemburg, 
296 ; in Dover, New Hampshire, 
299 ; Dr. Brindley James on, 
300; Daily Chronicle on, 301. 

Ceylon, risks of premature disposal 
of dead in, 163. 

Chambers, Dr. T. King, relates 
and cites cases of catalepsy, 64; on 
number of premature burials, 261. 

Chantourelle, Dr., raises debate 
on premature burial at Paris 
Academy of Medicine, 81. 

Chew, Dr. Roger G. S., relates cases 
of live burial, 82, 94; his own case 
of escape from same, 124 ; other 
cases of escape from same, 118- 
120 ; case of burial alive, 135 ; 
case of chloroformed girl buried 
as dead, 155 ; on cholera col- 
lapse mistaken for death, 156 ; 

in cerebral concussion, 157 ; in 
various predisposing diseases, 158; 
on safety of soldiers in India from 
live burial, 166 ; on putrefactive 
test, 225 ; on rigor mortis, 228 ; 
fallacy of post - mortem stains, 
230 ; on frequency of live burial, 
268 ; on auscultation sounds after 
death, 308 ; cases of revival in 
mortuaries in India, 361-363. 

Chloroform, effects of, simulating 
death, 155. 

Cholera, special risk of live burial 
in cases of, 118, 119, 120, 182; 
case of burial alive in, 135. 

Chri, Mr. Vira Raghava, describes 
disposal of dead at Madras, 161. 

Chunder Sen, Mr., relates case of 
trance in a fakir, 74- 

Cobbe, Miss Frances Power, per- 
sonal recollections, 126 ; direc- 
tions in will, 272. 

Coffins, sounds from the, 134, 135. 

Colerus, on apparent death, 376. 

Collins, Sir W. J., advises the 
providing of mortuaries, 354 

Cologne, old instances of revival at, 

372, 373- 

Colombo, a Catholic priest of, sub- 
ject to death-trances, 160. 

Coriclamation, practice of, by the 
Caribs, 377 ; in antiquity, 377 ; 
in Russia, 377 5 i n the case of the 
Widow of Nain's son, 378. 

Conclusions, summary of, 366-370. 

Constantinople, risks of live burial 
at, 178. 

Continental evidence on hasty 
burials, 177. 

Cooper, Mr. M. , surgeon, on appa- 
rent deaths, 13 ; relates case of 
Madame Blunden, 83 ; case at 
Toulouse of escape from live 
burial, 177 ; condemns hasty 
burial, 207, 208 ; on risks of dis- 
section, 275. 

Creighton, Dr. C., his " History of 
Epidemics" cited, 332. 

Cremation, at Calcutta, 1595 hasty 
disposal of apparently dead, 160 ; 
among Brahmins at Madras, 161 ; 



at Benares, 162 ; as a preventa- 
tive of premature burial, 324-334 ; 
society, precautions of, 329 ; ap- 
proved on general grounds, 331 ; 
prejudice against, 331 ; Rev. J. 
P. Hopps on, 331 ; Bishop of 
Manchester on, 332 ; resolution 
of Glasgow Health Congress, 333 ; 
in Japan, 334 ; in India, 334. 

Crom, Dr. K. H., case of resusci- 
tation at sea, 183. 

Crowe, Mrs., cases related by, 381. 

Curran, Dr. W., brigade-surgeon, 
relates case of premature dis- 
section, 280. 

Curry, Dr. James, women pre- 
disposed to death-counterfeits, 
150; on slow ebbing of life, 213; 
cases cited from, 273. 

Cvetskens, Maria,asleep 3Oodays, 54. 

"Cyclopaedia of Practical Medicine," 
on premature dissections, 276 ; 
relates remarkable case of revival 
after apparent death, 385. 

Daily Chronicle on lax death- 
certification, 301. 

Dalmatia, ordinances of, for inspec- 
tion of dead, 401. 

Danger in wasting diseases, 117. 

Danger of hasty burials, 175. 

Daskalaki, Marie, asleep five 
months, 53. 

Davies, Major-General T., his ac- 
count of hibernating jerboa, 68. 

Dead, the treatment of, 256 ; Buftbn 
on same, 256 ; G. A. Walker on, 
256, 257 ; Fletcher on, in United 
States, 258 ; Whiter on, 259 ; as 
a department of medical practice, 
259, 260. 

Death-certification, 282-302 ; extra- 
ordinary case by Mr. Baxter, 282 ; 
British Medical fournal on, 282, 

283 ; laxity of, at Swansea, 

284 ; Select Committee on, pur- 
port of its evidence, 284, 285 ; 
evidence before, 284 ; recom- 
mendations of, 285 ; support of 
same at medical meeting. 286 ; 
statistics of uncertified deaths, 

288 ; resolution of London Asso- 
ciation, 291 ; Col. Volluin on, 
291, 292 ; curious error in, 292 ; 
unreliability of, 368. (See under 
" Certificates.") 

Death, counterfeits of, 56, 366 ; 
their duration, 248-255 ; Josat's 
table of same, 249 ; Koppen's 
illustrations of same, 252. 

Death, signs of, 219-247 ; popular, 
219 ; scientific, 220-247 ; Dr. 
Brouardel on their unreliability, 
303 ; illusory nature of, 368. (See 
also under " Tests of Death.") 

" Death " to life in the grave, 89-91. 

Death, sudden, the only real cases 
of, 194 ; Farr on definition of, 
195 ; Granville on same, 195 ; 
Tidy on causes of, 196 ; Wilder 
on same, 198; recent instances of 
from newspapers, 199-207; from 
heart disease, 216 ; Manchester 
Criterion on revivals from, 217 ; 
Dr. Wilder on risks of premature 
burial in, 217 ; laws against early 
burial after, 218. 

Death, uncertainty of, 73 ; G. A. 
Walker on, 256, 257 ; London 
Review on, 371. 

Death, verification of, 292-300. 

Denmark, burial and mortuary regu- 
lations of, 403. 

Diaphanous test, the failure of, 225; 
Haward on, 225 ; Orfila on, 228 ; 
Richardson on, 227. 

Diembroeck, case of trance, 52. 

Dijon, case of awaking in the tomb 
at, 373- . 

Disintegration, the process of, 271. 

Disraeli, Benjamin, endures a 
week's trance, 46. 

Dissection, premature, probable case 
of, related by Ogston, 275 ; Bru- 
hier's cases of, 280 ; Louis' case 
of, 277 ; " Cyclopaedia of Practi- 
cal Medicine " on stories of, 276 ; 
Le Guern's case of, 279 ; Hart- 
mann's case of, 279 ; Curran's 
case of, 280 ; case at Lille, 365 ; 
by Vesalius, 278 ; of a Spanish 
lady, 279. 



Dogs, their instinct for the pre- 
sence of life in Parsee ceremonies, 
173; in an Austrian case, 173; 
in a Moravian case, 173 ; experi- 
ments on deprivation of air, 251. 

Donnellan, Dr., on hypodermic in- 
jection after apparent death from 
electric shock, 312. 

Donnet, Cardinal Archbishop, re- 
lates to French Senate cases of 
narrow escape from live burial, 
109-113, including his own case, 

Doubtful cases of premature burial, 

Douce, Francis, the antiquary, his 
fear of being buried alive, 187. 

Dover, New Hampshire, ordinances 
of, for verification of death, 299. 

Drowned, recovery of the, 392 ; 
cases of, by Struve, 392 ; Londe's 
case of, 393 ; Green's case of, 
394 ; cases of (Royal Humane 
Society), 395. 

Dryden, Lady, her testamentary 
provisions, 379. 

Duncan, Dr. Ebenezer, statistics of 
Glasgow burials, 333. 

Duncan, Dr. J. M., case of revival 
in Kansas Mortuary, 364. 

Duration of death-counterfeits, 248- 
255 ; statistics of, 249 ; experi- 
ments on, 251 ; Koppen's illus- 
trations of, 252-254. 

Duration of life in a coffin, 250. 

ELECTRICITY as a restorative agent, 
309; Dr. Donellan on, 312. 

Elliotson, Dr., case related by, 379. 

Embalming, makes death certain, 
271; cases of premature, 273-275 ; 
cases of escape from same, 274 ; 
authority of Home Secretary ad- 
vised for, 232 ; hasty, in the 
United States, 395. 

Empedocles, his recovery of woman 
supposed dead, 376. 

Escape from dissection at Lille, 365. 

Escape from live burial, 98- 1 32 ; case 
of Dr. Hadwen's, 98 ; case of 
lady possessed of her own death- 

certificate, IOO ; case of North 
Staffordshire (1903), 100 ; case 
certified dead by local doctor, 
loo ; case in Hungary (1902), 
1 01 ; case certified dead by two 
doctors, 101 ; case at St. Louis 
(1893), 101 ; case certified by 
coroner, 101 ; case at Sprakers, 
Rondout, N.Y., 101 ; case of 
Mrs. Wright, of Ilford (1897), 
103 ; case of resuscitation thirteen 
days after death, 103 ; case of Sir 
W. Lindsay, 1 04; case at Coventry 
(1858), 105 ; case at St. Agnan 
de Cenuieres, 106 ; case of pro- 
fessor's wife at Tubingen, 107 ; 
case related by Dr. F. A. Floyer, 
108 ; case related by Cardinal 
Donnet, 109-113; Dr. Brewer on, 
113; Dr. Richardson, case ot 
catalepsy, 114; two cases of, 
related by Dr. M. S. Tanner, 
114 ; case of Dr. O'Neill, of Lin- 
coln, 115 ; Dr. Fletcher describes 
two cases, 116; in case related 
by Dr. Colin Valentine, 117; 
in case related by Dr. Stephenson, 
117 ; Dr. R. G. S. Chew's cases, 
118-120; in small-pox at Glouces- 
ter, 121 ; The Lancet, in cases of 
small-pox, 121 ; in consumption 
and epilepsy, 122, 123 ; Dr. R. G. 
S. Chew's personal experience of, 
124, 125 ; Miss Frances Power 
Cobbe's recollections, 126 ; in the 
case of the Metropolitan of Lesbos, 
127 ; case of the daughter of 
British Consul coffined alive, 128 ; 
incident at Vagueray, near Lyons, 
128 ; case of woman at Burham, 
near Rochester, 129; case at St. 
Leonards, 129; an awful experi- 
ence at Hey wood, 130 ; at Mil- 
itsch, Silesia, 130 ; after being 
declared dead by several doctors, 
131 ; restored on the way to the 
funeral (1901), 132; after being 
laid out for dead at Tulle, 132 ; 
Mr. T. Wright narrates a case, 
132 ; formalities, fatal conse- 
quences of, 133 ; Koppen, H. F., 



case of rescue from grave fatally 
delayed, 134 ; case at Brompton, 
364; in a U.S.A. field hospital, 
364 ; in a mortuary at Hamburg, 
363 ; in mortuaries in India, 361- 
363 ; in a Brussels mortuary, 
360 ; in a Cassel mortuary, 361 ; 
in a Lille mortuary, 365 ; in a 
Buffalo mortuary, 363 ; in a 
Marylebone mortuary, 364. 

Escapes from being cremated alive 
in India, 162-165. 

Exhumation, without an order, 91, 
92; law of, in England, 134; 
cases of, too late for rescue, 133- 
140; case of, in time to save life, 

FABRI, William, condemns hasty 
burial, 208. 

Fagge, Dr. Hilton, on trance, 42; 
on risk of live burial in cases of 
sudden death, 214; on putrefac- 
tion as the only certain sign of 
death, 229. 

Fakirs, cases of trance in, 74, 75 ; 
experiment with, related by Hart- 
mann, 75' 7^- 

Farquharson, Dr. R., M.P., on lax 
death-certification, 287. 

Farr, Dr. William, on definition of 
sudden death, 195. 

Fear of premature burial, Spectator 
on, 12, 13, 186-193 ; eminent 
subjects of, 186-189; Rev. John 
Kingston on prevalence of, 190; 
justifiable, 367. 

Figaro, Le, correspondence in, on 
live burial, 269. 

Fletcher, Dr. Moore Russell, on 
animal hibernation, 70; relates 
cases of narrow escape, 1 1 6, 117; 
on negligent treatmentof the dead, 
258; on restoratives, 311. 

Floyer, Dr. F. A., relates case of 
narrow escape, 108. 

Fluorescin as a test of death, 312. 

Forestus on possibility of recovering 
supposed dead, 376. 

Formalities, fatal consequences of, 

France, laws of, relating to burials,. 

Frankfort, regulations for inspection 

of the dead, 398. 
Froriep, M., cited as to ratio ot 

revivals in grave, 263. 

GAIRDNKR, Dr. W. T., case of 
trance for twenty-three weeks, 46. 

Gannal, Dr. Felix, his valuable bib- 
liography, on putrefaction the only 
real test, 230; on fallacious signs 
of death, 230-232. 

Gaubert, M., his estimate of ratio of 
live burials, 240, 267 ; his essay 
proves that wailing mortuaries are 
useful, 360. 

Gazette Medicate <? Orient asserts live 
burials at Constantinople, 178. 

Gazette Medicate on putrefactive 
test, 229. 

Germany, waiting mortuaries of, 
369 ; movement in, to prevent 
premature interment, 178. 

Gibbons, Dr. P. }., on premature 
embalming, 273. 

Glasgow, Health Congress, resolu- 
tion as to cremation, 333. 

Gloucester, burial of cholera patients, 
118 ; narrow escape in small-pox, 


Glycas, Nicephorus, Metropolitan 
of Lesbos, escapes live burial, 127. 

Goa, resident of, prematurely cof- 
fined, 164. 

Godfrey, Mrs., case of, 384. 

Gooch, Dr., his case of catalepsy, 
62, 63. 

Goodman, Mrs., celebrated case of, 


Gowers, Dr. W. R., on trance, 51 ; 
on catalepsy, 43 ; on predisposi- 
tion to same, 150. 

Granville, Dr. A. B., on sudden 
death, 195. 

Graveyards, how they tell their tale, 

Green, Anne, case of, at Oxford, 


Green, Dr. J. W. , case of tardy~ 
recovery after immersion, 394. 



Guern, M. le, his experience of 
frequency of live burial, 264 ; re- 
lates case of premature dissection, 

Guy, Dr. W. A., on neglect of the 
subject in England, 7. 

HADWEN, Dr., case of catalepsy, 
57-59 > case f escape from live 
burial, 98 ; conditions in city 
slums, 175. 

Hanged person, the heart beating 
at the dissection of a, 210; re- 
covery of a, 375. 

Hanham, Mr. T. C. Swinburne, on 
safeguards used by Cremation 
Society, 329, 330. 

Harbutt, Mr. Wm., case of burial 
alive at Radstock, 139. 

Hartmann, Dr. Franz, his essay pub 
lished at Boston, U.S., 7; dis- 
tinguishes trance from catalepsy, 
59 ; case of fakir, 79 ; case of 
revival after burial, 114; relates 
two cases of rescue from live 
burial fatally delayed, 136; case 
of catalepsy revived, 151 ; case 
of Orrendo's body found beside 
the empty coffin, 152 ; on predis- 
posing causes of trance, 158 ; 
relates case of resuscitation from 
spasms of the heart, 215 ; on put- 
refaction the sole test of death, 
230, 231 ; on frequency of live 
burial, 269 ; cases of premature 
dissection, 2/4-279 ; two cases of 
escape from death after formal 
certification, 326. 

Haward, Dr. Edwin, case of failure 
of diaphanous test, 225. 

Haweis, Rev. H. R., advocates 
cremation to prevent live burial, 

Hearing, sense of, in suspended 
animation, 377, 378, 379. 

Heart, stoppage of, as test of death, 

Hedley, Dr. W. S. , on use of elec- 
tricity as a restorative, 310. 

Herachborg, Dr., relates case of a 

Jewess rescued from the under- 
takers, 178, 407. (Hirschberg.) 

Hereford, Chief Constable of, cases 
of trance narrated by, 54. 

Heron, Dr., dread of premature 
burial, 189. 

Hertz, Dr. Marcus, opposes hasty 
burial among the Jews, 179, 467. 

Hibernation, instance of, in the 
jerboa, 68 ; Braid on, in lower 
animals, 69 ; Russell Fletcher on, 
in reptiles and fishes, 70 ; the 
bear, 71 ; Dr Brouardel on, 
71, 72 ; Hufeland on, 73 ; 
case of Col. Townshend, 73 ; 
self-induced trance in fakirs, 74 ; 
strange fakir feats, 75 ; Royal 
Aquarium, buried alive, 77; Hart- 
mann, case of fakir, 79. 

Hibernation, so-called human, 72, 


Hincks, Amelia, a case of narrow 
escape, 105. 

Hindrances, legal, to disinterment, 

Hindus, their motive for speedy 
disposal of dead, 162. 

Historical cases, appendix of, 371. 

Holmes, Mrs. Basil, on the exten- 
sion of burial-grounds, 333. 

Honigberger, Dr. J. M., his re- 
searches on trance in India, 80. 

Hopps, Rev. J. Page, advocates 
cremation to prevent live burial, 


Hotels, hasty burials from, on the 
Continent, 185. 

Howard, Col., of Co. Wicklow, his 
escape from live burial, 126. 

Howard, John, dread of premature 
burial, 188. 

Hufeland, Dr. C. W., on trance, 44; 
narrates narrow escape from live 
burial, 107 ; on risks and horrors 
of live burial, 262 ; devised the 
Weimar mortuary, 339. 

Humane Society, the Royal, cases 
from its reports, 382, 383, 384 ; 
literature relating to, 392. 

Hypodermic medicines as restora- 
tives or tests, 311. 



ICARD, Dr., discovery of test for 
death, 312 ; prize awarded, 319 ; 
instances of resuscitation in ap- 
parent death, 335, 336 ; on wait- 
ing mortuaries, 336, 337. 

India, cases of burial alive, by Dr. 
Chew, 82 ; premature burial and 
cremation in, 159-174 ; Mr. Billi- 
moria on the risks of the same, 
164; soldiers in, not liable to risk 
of same, 166 ; cremation in, 334. 

Infants, recovery of supposed dead, 

Influenza followed by trance, 154. 

Ireland, hasty burial in, 270 ; prac- 
tice of burial in, 404 ; no mortu- 
aries in, 354, 355. 

Irvine, Mr. Clarke, on popular 
trust in the signs of death, 243. 

JACKSON, Dr., of Somerby, relates 
case of supposed death by 
lightning-stroke, 221. 

James, Dr. J. Brindley, on risks of 
live burial, 300. 

Japan, cremation in, 334. 

Jaws, clenching of, as signs of death, 


Jebb, Dr. John, his graphic case of 
catalepsy, 63 

Jerboa, the, its hibernation, 68. 

Jewish law, danger of, 142. 

Jewish World, on the special risk of 
live burial amongst Jews, 179. 

Jews, hasty burials among, opposed, 
179 ; cases of, restored to life by 
delay, 179, 180, 181 ; their law 
of burial criticised, 179 ; funeral 
practices of, 377 ; history of their 
practice of early burial, 406 ; dis- 
cussions on same, 407. 

Jeypore, fakir in a trance at, 74. 

Johnson, Walter, exhibits himself in 
a trance, 115. 

Jones, Rev. Harry, relates cases of 
escape from live burial, 120. 

Josat, Dr., on absence of cardiac 
action at birth, 223 ; statistics of 
duration of apparent death, 248 ; 
case of revival in mortuary at 
Frankfort-on-the- Maine, 360. 

Joseph, Mr. , on risks of premature 
burial or burning in Ceylon, 163. 

method of invention, 186; descrip- 
tion of apparatus, with illustra- 
tions, 319-323. 

Kempner, examination of grave- 
yards, 8 1. 

Kenny, Dr. J. E., M.P., disposal 
of the dead in Ireland, 354, 355. 

Kerthomas, M. H. L., relates re- 
vival of corpse at Lille, 365. 

Kesteven, Mr. W. B., on fallacy of 
cardiac test of death, 223. 

Kingston, Rev. John, reality of live 
burial, 190. 

Kite, Dr. Charles, on uncertain 
signs of death, 10. 

Koppen, II. F., case of rescue from 
grave fatally delayed, 134; cases 
of long vitality in coffin or grave, 
252-254 ; cites estimate of ratio 
of live burials, 261. 

Korff, Ruben, coil as a test of death, 

Kuhn, Dr., reports on trance, 80. 

LAGENBERG, Van, Dr., information 
from, as to premature burials at 
Colombo, 160. 

Lancet, The, on the horror of live 
burial, 1 1 : case of catalepsy at 
Dunkirk, 65 ; on reality of prema- 
ture interment, 89 ; burial alive in 
France, 93 ; on a case of revival 
from death- trance at Nuneaton, 
105 ; cases of escape in small- 
pox, 121 ; case of premature 
encoffinment, 122 ; on cholera 
patients buried alive, 182 ; on 
diagnosis of apparent death, 235, 
236 ; burial alive at Bordeaux, 
265, 266 ; on mortuaries, 339, 
340 ; on recovery of the still- 
born, 390, 391. 

Lancisi, Dr., his belief in reanima- 
tion, 10 ; opposes delay in burial, 

Laurens, Miss, her recovery from 
apparent death, 384. 



Lee, General, subject to trance 

seizures, 45 ; buried alive, 45. 
Lenormand, Dr. Leonce, enumer- 
tes death-like conditions, 158 ; on 
apparent death in cases of apo- 
plexy, 214 ; on delay of asphyxia 
in coffin, 250 ; estimates ratio of 
live burials, 264 ; on laxity of the 
medecins verificateurs, 293 ; on 
value of mortuary system in Ber- 
lin* 359, S^o. 

Lesbos, Greek Orthodox Metro- 
politan of, his escape from live 
burial, 127. 

Lethargy, synonym of trance, 46-58. 
Levitical law of corpses and burials, 

Lightning-stroke, cases of apparent 

death from, 390. 

Lignieres, Dr. de, on premature 

burials from hotels, 185 ; on large 

ratio of uncertain deaths, 241. 

Lille, revivals in mortuaries at, 365. 

Lindsay, Sir W., his escape from 

live burial, 104. 
Lisbon, case of cataleptic trance, 


Londe, Dr. Charles, on cold pre- 
disposing to live burial, 153; 
on duration of breathing in a 
coffin, 250 ; relates case of tardy 
recovery after immersion, 393. 
London Association for Prevention 
of Premature Burial, resolution, 
291 ; list of publications, 438, 439. 
London, burial-grounds of, 333 ; 
mortuaries of, 349-354 ; revivals 
in mortuaries, 364, 365. 
Looking-glass test of death, 219. 
Louis, Dr. Antoine, relates case of 

premature dissection, 277. 
Lusitanus, Dr. Zacutus, witness of 

revival in a coffin, 336. 
Lytton, Edward Bulwer, baron, his 
dread of being buried alive, 188. 

MACNISH, Dr., on trance, 51. 

Madden, Dr. T. More, cases of 
death- counterfeits, 49-51. 

Manchester, Bishop of, on crema- 
tion, 332. 

Manchester Criterion on revivals 

after sudden death, 217. 
Manning, Rev. Owen, case of, 383. 
Martineau, Harriet, provision of her 

will against risk of live burial, 

Marylebone, case of recovery in the 

mortuary of, 364. 
Mason, Good, case of death-trance, 


Mason, Mr. R. B., of Nuneaton, 
authenticates case of narrow 
escape, 105. 

Maze, Dr., award of Dusgate prize 
(1890), 319. 

Mifctecins verificateurs , their duties 
perfunctorily discharged, 292, 293. 

Medical Examiner on putrefactive 
test, 229. 

Medical experiences of escape from 
live burial, 113-117. 

Medical Times and Hospital Gazette 
on Cardinal Donnet's cases of live 
burial, 109-113 ; on vivisection of 
a criminal, 210 ; on hospital mor- 
tuaries, 352 ; on Burial Act, 290, 

Medical training, absence of, in 
trance, etc., 369. 

Medicine, profession of, sceptical as 
to death-trance and live burial, 
141 ; a new sphere of work for, 

Mendelssohn, Moses, writes against 
early burial, 406. 

Milner, Dr. Ebenezer, on rigor 
mortis, 225. 

Mission, M. Max, his opinion on 
frequency of live burial, 264 ; in- 
stances cited by, 372. 

Mistakes, fatal, in trance, 55. 

Mitchell, Dr. S. Weir, case of ap- 
parent death, 220. 

Mody, Ervad Jivanji, his explana- 
tion of the Sagdeed at Parsee 
funerals, 168 ; on the use of the 
chain at the Towers of Silence, 

Molloy, J. F., alleges trance in B. 
Disraeli, 53. 



Monteverdi, M., his test of death, 


Moore, Dr. G., on so-called human 
hibernation, 72, 73. 

Mortuaries, an illustration of their 
use, 337 > their history, 338, 339 ; 
the Lance f s approval of, 339 ; 
waiting, should be established in 
all sanitary districts, 369 ; move- 
ment in favour of, began in France, 
338 ; first executed in Germany, 
338 ; new and sumptuous ex- 
ample of, at Munich, 341 ; as 
now existing in London, 349-354 ; 
Sir W. J. Collins on, 354 ; sug- 
gestions for their improvement 
and extension, 353 : Medical 
Times on those of hospitals, 352 ; 
as now existing in provincial 
towns, 354 ; want of, in Ireland, 
354> 355 '> objections answered, 
356-359 ; those of Brussels, 360 ; 
of Berlin, 359 ; of Frankfort-on- 
the-Maine, 360; of Cassel, 361 ; 
of India, 361 ; of Hamburg, 363 ; 
of United States of America, 363 ; 
of London, 364 ; of Lille, 365 ; 
utility of, 359-365- 

Moscow, burial customs at, 403. 

Mount Edgcumbe, Lady, buried in 
trance, 46. 

Munich, new sumptuous mortuary 
at, 341-349 ; utility of the mor- 
tuary at, 349, 357 ; ordinances 
of, for ascertaining death, 401. 

Myers, on trance, 41. 

NARROW escapes from premature 
burial, 98. 

Necker, Madam, her practical sug- 
gestions to prevent live burial, 

Needle test of death, 232. 

Netherlands, the, .burial laws of, 

Newsholme, Dr A. , on unregistered 
still-births, 398. 

Noises from the tomb, 92-95. 

Nowroji, Mr. Ardeshar, on prema- 
ture exposure of the dead among 
Parsees, 169. 

Number, probable, of live burials, 

Nuneaton, authentic case at, of 

narrow escape, 105. 
Nusserwanje, Air. Dadabhoy, on 

cases of restored animation in 

Parsees, 169. 

OBJECTIONS to waiting mortuaries 
answered, 356-359. 

O'Connell, Daniel, his dread of 
being buried alive, 188. 

Ogston, Professor Francis, records 
probable case of premature dis- 
section, 275. 

O'Neill, Dr. W., relates case of 
narrow escape, 115. 

Ordinances. (See under " Regula- 

Orfila, M., diaphanous test useless, 

O'Rourke, Mr. John, on hurried 
embalming, 396. 

Orrendo, case of, at Kronstadt, 152. 

Ouseley, Rev. J. G., estimates ratio 
of live burials, 263. 

PARK, Dr. Anna, three times in 
danger of burial alive, 52. 

Parsees, their mode of disposing of 
the dead, 167, 173 ; their pre- 
judice against persons restored to 
life, 170, 173. 

Patzki, Dr. J. H., his case of re- 
covery by artificial respiration, 


Pembroke, Willian, Earl of, em- 
balmed, 273. 

Perspiration a sign of revival, 49. 

Petitions for prevention of prema- 
ture burial, 266, 267. 

Phelps, Lieut. -General A., advo- 
cates cremation to prevent live 
burial, 327. 

Plato, his reason for advising tardy 
disposal of dead, 176, 376 ; re- 
lates a case of revival, 371. 

Pliny gives instances of the dead 
restored, 372. 

Plutarch, case of revival cited from, 



Prasad, Mr. Durga, relates escape 
from burning alive, 162. 

Predisposition to trance, in drunken- 
ness, 157 > from nervous exhaus- 
tion, 149 ; in women, 151 ; from 
cold, 153 ; after influenza, 154 ; 
from narcotics, 155 ; in cholera, 
156 ; in various morbid states, 

157, 158- 

Pregnancy, apparent death during, 

Premature burial, special risks, 367. 

Premature encoffinment, cases by 
Dr. Icard, 336, 337. 

Presentiments and their realisation, 
96, 97- 

Prevention, means of, by test of 
senses, 305 ; by exciting the skin, 
305, 306 ; by auscultation, 307 ; 
by electricity, 309-311 ; by hypo- 
dermic injection, 311; Dr. Icard's 
discovery, 312 ; by artificial re- 
spiration, 313 ; summary of, in 
All the Year Round, 314-318; 
prizes for discovery of, 318. (See 
also under " Tests of Death.") 

Prix Dusgate, 318, 424. 

Prix d'Ourches, 318, 423. 

Prix Manni> 318, 421. 

Prize by the Brussels Royal Aca- 
demy, 412. 

Publisher, a well-known, relates to 
the author a case of narrow 
escape, 128. 

Putrefaction the one safe test of 
death, Dr. Chew on, 228 ; Dr. 
Fagge on, 229 ; Medical Ex- 
aminer on, 230 ; Dr. Gannal on, 
230 ; only real safeguard, 369. 

Pye-Smith, Dr. P. H., on caution 
to be used in cases of trance. 214 

QUENSTEDT on dormancy of vital 

principle, 377. 
Quintilian gives reason for tardy 

burial by the Romans, 176. 

RACHEL, Mile, (actress), said to have 
been prematurely embalmed, 274. 

Ratio of live burials, and estimate 
of, 261-264. 

Recommendations of the authors, 

Regulations against early burial 
after sudden death, 218 ; in 
Wiirtemburg for ascertaining real 
death, 234 ; in Bavaria for same, 
244-247 ; in the Netherlands, 

398 ; Frankfort, 398 ; France, 

399 ; Austria, 400 ; Vienna, 400 ; 
Dalmatia, 401 ; Saxony, 401 ; 
Munich, 401 ; Calcutta, 402 ; 
Bombay, 403 ; Cape Town, 403 ; 
Moscow, 403 ; Brussels, 403 ; 
Denmark, 404 ; Spain, 404 ; Ire- 
land, 405 ; United States, 405 ; 
Switzerland, 405. 

Rescue from live burial fatally- 
delayed by formalities, 133 ; cases 
of, 133-140. 

Respiration, artificial, in case of 
apparent death, 313. 

Respiration, failure of, as test of 
death, 222. 

Resuscitation, cases of. (See under 
" Awaking," " Escapes," and 
" Rescue.") 

Revival in mortuaries, 359-365. 

Richardson, Sir B. W., his paper 
on the "Absolute Signs of Death," 
7 ; cites case of narrow escape, 
114 ; on effects of narcotics simu- 
lating death, 155 ; his enumera- 
tion of signs of death, 222, 223 ; 
applies the test of death in a case, 
227 ; on electricity test, 309. 

Rigor mortis a sign of death, 225. 

Risks, special, of premature burial, 


Romans, ancient, their burial prac- 
tices, 175, 375-378. 

Roper, Dr., relates cases of still- 
born recovered, 390. 

Rose, Mr. John, dread of premature 
burial, 188. 

Ross, case of revival, 397- 

Rossi, Ovidio, buried alive, 55. 

Royal Aquarium, buried alive at, 


Roy, Dr. Mohan Chunder, on risks 
of live burial and burning at 
Benares, 162. 



Russell, Lady, rescue by husband, 

SAFEGUARDS against premature 
burial imperative, 192. 

Sagdeed, the, ceremony at the 
Towers of Silence, 168. 

Salzburg, case of delayed rescue 
from live burial at, 137. 

Savages' respect for their dead, 256. 

Saxony, burial law of, 401. 

Sceptic, the, why he scores, 148 ; 
answer to his arguments, 337 , 338. 

Schmid, Dr. J., case of sudden 
death revived, 215. 

Schwager preaches against precipi- 
tate burials, 177. 

Schwartz roused from sleep during 
burial, 46. 

Scottish case of revival, 397. 

Scott, Robert, of Scott's Hall, case 
of, 380 ; his wife's case, 381. 

Servius, cremation delayed among 
the Latins, 176. 

Sethna, Mr. Phiroze C., accom- 
panies the author to the Towers 
of Silence, 167. 

Shaw, Mr. Oscar F., narrates case 
of live burial, 96. 

Sheffield, a premature death-certifi- 
cate at, 292. 

Signs of death, 219-247. 

Silence, Towers of, visit of author 
to, at Bombay, 167. 

Sinhalese customs, 163. 

Small-pox, cases of suspended ani- 
mation in, 121 ; Lancet on risks 
of live burial from, 1 21. 

Snart, Mr. John, on number of live 
burials, 263. 

Somaglia, Cardinal, prematurely 
embalmed, 274. 

Spain, burial practices in, 404. 

Spasms of the heart, recovery after 
supposed death from, 215. 

Spectator, JJie, on indifference to 
the danger, 12 ; case of recovery 
after three days' interment, 99, 
100, 254. 

Spencer, Herbert, directions con- 
cerning burial, 304. 

Spinosa, Cardinal, prematurely em- 
balmed, 273. 

Sri Sumangala on risks of live burial 
and burning in Ceylon, 163. 

Statistics of death by syncope, 211 ; 
of duration of apparent death, 
248 ; of death-counterfeits, 249 ; 
of live burial, 263. 

Stevenson, Dr. A., refuses demand 
for death-certificate in case of 
trance, 117. 

Still-born, the resuscitation of, 386- 

Struve, Dr. C. A.,. case of rescue 
fatally delayed, 134 ; on cold pro- 
ducing a death-like state, 153 ; 
on duration of apparent death, 
228 ; case of recovery by elec- 
tricity, 309 ; cases of recovery of 
still-born, 386 ; of recovery of 
drowned, 392-395. 

Switzerland, burial regulations, 405. 

Syncope, statistics of death by, 21 1 ; 
definition of, 212. 

TALMUD, the, its teaching as to 
burials, 406. 

Tanner, Dr. H. S., relates two 
cases of narrow escape, 114. 

Taylor, Dr. Alfred Swayne, case of 
putrefaction delayed till twentieth 
day, 143 ; on cases of premature 
burial, 209. 

Terilli, Dr., tardy burial a safeguard, 

Tests of death : mobility, 221 ; res- 
piratory, 222; cardiac and arterial, 
223 ; rigor mortis, 224 ; putre- 
factive, 228 ; clenched jaws, 221 ; 
diaphanous web of fingers, 225 ; 
Sir Henry Thomson on, 228 ; 
Richardson's enumeration of, 231 ; 
Hartmann on fallaciousness of, 
230; official statements of, 231; 
precautions in Witrtemburg, 234 ; 
Lancet on fallaciousness of, 235, 
236; British Medical journal OK 
same, 237-240; Wilder on same, 
240; Gaubert on same, 240; ex- 
pert verificateurs of, 241; popular 
trust in, 243; discovery of Dr. 



Icard, 312; Bavarian official direc- 
tions for, 344-347. 

Thieurey, Dr., his estimated number 
of live burials cited, 263. 

Thompson, Mr. W. Arnold, case of 
still-born child recovered, 390. 

Thompson, Sir Henry, on putre- 
faction test, 228 ; on defective 
death-certification, 286; advocates 
cremation to prevent live burial, 
324; on cremation and inspection, 

Thouret, Dr., his inference from 
opening of graves, 81, 269. 

Tidy, Dr. C. M., on progressive 
nature of death, 196; on causes 
of sudden death, 196; on still- 
born infants, 386. 

Times. The, curious error in death- 
certification, 292. 

Tobacco a cause of sudden death, 

Townshend, Col., voluntary suspen- 
sion of action of heart and lungs, 

Trance, Myers on, 41 ; its variations 
and dangers, 42 ; Fagge and Pye- 
Smith on, 42 ; Hufeland on, 44 ; 
Gairdner's case of, 47 ; Madden's 
cases of, 49 ; Macnish on, 5 1 ; 
Gowers on, 51 ; case of Chippen- 
dale, 51 ; Mason Goode, case of 
death trance, 52 ; Diembroeck's 
case, 52 ; Park, Dr. Anna, three 
times in danger of burial alive, 
52 ; the human dormouse, 52 ; 
Marie Daskalaki asleep five 
months, 53 ; Hereford, Chief 
Constable of, cases, 54 ; Marie 
Cvetskens asleep three hundred 
days, 54 ; fatal mistakes, 55 ; 
Forbes Winslow on, 61 ; in a 
fakir at Jeypore, 74 ; at Lahore, 
77 ; self-induced trance at West- 
minster Aquarium, 77. 

Truth, relation in, of a case of un- 
verified death, 144. 

Turnbull, Mr. Peveril, communi- 
cates to Spectator case of exhuma- 
tion alive, 91. 

UNDERTAKERS, testimony of, 92-93; 
their experience of dubious death, 
147 ; their fear of premature in- 
terment, 191. 

Undertakers' and Funeral Di> ectors 1 
Journal, their experience of 
dubious death, 92-93 ; on risks of 
hasty burial, 208 ; on frequency 
of live burial, 268. 

Undertakers' Review, case of revival 
in mortuary in Buffalo, 363. 

United States of America, regula- 
tions in, for disposal of dead, 
H3> 405- 

VALENTINE, Dr. Colin S., relates 
case of escape from burial, 117. 

Verification of deaths, in France, 
293 ; in Brussels, 295 ; in Wiir- 
temburg, 296-299 ; in the United 
States, 299. 

Vesalius, Andreas, his case of live 
dissection, 278. 

Vienna, ordinances of, for inspection 
of dead, 400. 

Vigne, Dr. J. B., testamentary 
directions to prevent his own live 
burial, 303. 

Vivisection of a criminal, 210, 211. 

Vollum, Dr. E. P., on death certifi- 
cation, 291, 292 ; recovery of a 
child, 391. 

WADE, Sir Claude, eye-witness of 

trances in fakirs, 77. 
Wadia, Mr. Soabjee Dhunjeebhoy, 

Waiting Mortuaries, Gaubert on, 

360, 361. 
Walker, Dr., of Dublin, his case, 

382, 383- 
Walker, Mr. G. A., on risks of 

premature burial, 256, 257. 
Waterman, Dr. S., recoveries from 

apparent death in heart disease, 

Welby, Mr. Horace, dread of live 

burial a prevalent one, 187. 
I Weymouth, peculiar case of cata- 
lepsy near, 66, 67. 



Whiter, Rev. Walter, advice as to 
treatment of the dead, 263. 

Whitney, Constance, her tomb in 
Cripplegate Church, 383. 

Widgen, Mrs., recovers many still- 
born at lying-in hospital, 389. 

Wiener Medicinsche Zeitung on a 
premature Jewish interment at 
Lemberg, 181. 

Wilder, Dr. Alex., brings subject 
before State Legislature, N.Y., 
13; cases of burial alive, 82; on 
predisposition to trance, 150; 
on the causes of sudden death, 
198; on risks of, 217, 218; pre- 
mature burial in sudden deaths, 
217; on fallacious signs of death, 
240 ; advocates cremation to pre- 
vent live burial, 332. 

Winslow, Dr. Forbes, on trance 

and catalepsy, 60-62. 
Winslow, Dr. Jacques B., a pioneer 

in the prevention of live burial, 

Wolff, Rev. J., narratives of narrow 

escapes, 177. 
Wunderbar, R. J., on the origin of, 

and authority for, early burial 

among the Jews, 406. 
Wtirtemburg, official directions in, 

for ascertaining real death, 234; 

case of escape from premature 

interment in, 298 ; regulations 

of, recommended for imitation, 


YATES, Edmund, bequeaths fee to 
surgeon to ensure that he was not 
buried alive, 188. 







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